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How Long Does It Take for a Radio Signal to Reach Mars?

Writen by Edwin Jones

Fact checked by Andrew Wright

how long does it take for a radio signal to reach mars

On average, it will take five to 20 minutes for radio signals to get to Mars from Earth. This number, however, is constantly changing, depending on the positions of the planet.

Hence, the closer they are, the quicker it will be to send a message to Mars. Meanwhile, the farther the planets are, the more there will be a Mars communication delay.

If you want to learn more about how long does it take for a radio signal to reach Mars, read on. We’ll explain everything you need to know.

The Formula for Calculating Radio Signal Travel to Mars


To compute how long does it take to communicate with Mars from Earth, we need a formula. It’s actually quite simple.

Time = Distance / Speed of Light

So, in this computation, one thing remains constant – the speed of light. Approximately, it’s 300,000 kilometers per second.

A main assertion here is that radio waves are travelling at the speed of light. As such, you can also express the result in light minutes.

However, there will be changes in the distance between Earth and Mars. It’s ever-changing, which will vary depending on the planets’ position at a given time.

Theoretically speaking, the nearest that the two planets could be is at 54,600,000 kilometers. So far, however, this distance has not been recorded yet.

Instead, the closest distance recorded between Earth and Mars was in August 2003 when the two are 56,000,000 kilometers apart.

The Time It Takes for Radio Signals to Reach Mars

Again, it should be highlighted that there is no fixed distance between the two planets, so there are variations when it comes to the transmission time to Mars.

Although, based on one of the most reliable sources – NASA – the average time to send a signal to Mars is anywhere from five to 20 minutes.

Looking at the numbers from NASA, to get five minutes, the assumption is that the distance between Earth and Mars during the time of computation is 90,000,000 kilometers.

You’ll then divide that number by 300,000 kilometers per second, which is the speed of light. From here, you’ll find the time it takes for a message to travel from Earth to a spacecraft at Mars.

The time for radio waves to reach Mars affects other things that rely on radio communications. For instance, it can affect the time it will take to transmit television pictures from Mars. That could take 7 to 41 minutes, but will highly depend on the signal quality.

The Speed at Which Radio Signals Travel to Mars

Now that you know the time it takes for a radio signal from Mars to Earth, you’re probably curious about the speed at which they travel.

This will depend on the specific vehicle that is used and the antenna that it has. To touch on this top briefly, let’s look at the case of Perseverance, the March 2020 Rover.

It has multiple antennas on the deck. One of them is an ultra-high frequency antenna, which has a transmission speed of 2 megabits per second. Meanwhile, it also has a low-gain antenna with a transmission rate of 10 or 30 bits per second.



 How long does it take for a radio signal to travel from Earth to Jupiter?

Like in the case of Mars, the distance between planets affects the duration of a radio signal to reach Jupiter.

When Jupiter and Earth are on the same line from the sun, the distance is approximately 600,000,000 kilometers. Hence, it takes approximately 2,000 seconds or 33 minutes for radio signals to travel between the two planets.

How long does a radio signal travel from the Earth to the moon?

On average, it takes only 2.4 to 2.7 seconds to communicate with the moon from Earth through radio signals.

How long does it take to communicate with Alpha Centauri?

Alpha Centauri is the closest star system to Earth. However, at a distance of 40 trillion kilometers, communication isn’t feasible as it takes an extremely long time for a radio signal to reach Alpha Centauri.

On average, the communication will take more than four years. Now, if you’re wondering how many days that will be, it will take more than 1,460 days.

What makes communication between Earth and Mars possible?

At such a long distance, many of you are probably wondering about how we can communicate with Mars. Science makes this possible. To be more specific, we rely on communications antennas.

NASA has an extensive network of antennas called the Deep Space Network. These are large and advanced, allowing humans to communicate as far as possible.


So, how long does it take for a radio signal to reach Mars? As noted above, it depends on the distance between the two planets, which will vary at different points. In most cases, however, the transmission can take anywhere from five to 20 minutes.

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