Before we go.

This is your trusty interplanetary vessel, sitting on the tarmac at Cape Canavarel. It's fairly stylish, but it will feel rather cramped with 5 people inside during 9 months in space. Never mind.

Your launch date is all set - the plans can be found right here in this scenario. If you'd rather make your own, the launch date I'm using is MJD 51977.62 . If you want to figure out how to set your own launch dates, go here.

One thing we need to do right away is set this rather everyday scene in context. We are used to thinking of the ground as stationary. It isn't. The Earth is bowling around the Sun at over 29 kilometers per second. Mars only manages 23. If we're going to Mars, our Deltaglider needs to slow down quite a bit.

On our trip we will escape from Earth, but we'll never escape from gravity. If you weigh 70 kilos, then Earth pulls on you with a force of 687 Newtons - a force your legs have to oppose all the time. But the Sun also pulls on you with a force of 0.4 Newtons. That's about the same force as you need to hold up a calculator. The only reason you don't notice this force is that you, the room you are in, and the whole planet you are on are falling under the influence of this gravitational force. Relative to the Sun, you are weightless already.

The Earth's spin

The whole planet is also spinning on its axis, and you can see this on your orbiter instruments as well.

Here are the orbit and map MFD's as they appear sitting on the ground. The orbit MFD tells you your present velocity around the Earth (408.9 meters per second), and shows the shape your orbit would have if the Earth were magically compressed to a point. This orbit, like all orbits around one planet, sits entirely in one plane (flat surface). The map MFD shows where that flat surface intersects the Earth's surface. This plane is about the same as that of the orbit you will end up in if you take off from here in an Eastbound direction.

You are moving, and you can use this movement to good effect. First of all, the Earth's movement along its orbit can be useful. This is why NASA only sends probes to Mars at certain times which it calls launch windows. The Earth can really help. I've already picked a suitable date and placed it in the scenario which we're going to follow.

It also really matters when in the day you launch the glider. As the Earth rotates, so the inclination of the orbit that results from a normal Eastbound takeoff changes. This can be used to our advantage whether we intend to rendezvous with orbiting stations, or go to Mars.

These days, there is more than one way to get to Mars, and multiple tools to get you there.

The standard orbiter way

You can get to Mars without downloading any user add-ons. It's a bit more challenging than using some of the add-ons, but it's a good way to learn the orbiter instruments and some space navigation skills.

The TransferX way

But how would NASA fly it? Leave Earth in the same way that they would

The NavMFD way

Probably the most complex of Orbiter MFD's, this tool will allow you to plan your trip from one end to the other.

Aligning orbital plane by sitting on the ground

At the beginning of the scenario, our orbital inclination relative to Mars is not very close at all. A relative inclination of 49.1 degrees means a big course correction if we take off now. If we just sit on the ground for a few hours, things will change quite a bit. This is what happens over the course of about 12 hours. The relative inclination has dropped from 49' to 4.92'

Relative inclination at start of scenario

Relative inclination after sitting on the ground for some hours.

Those few hours of doing nothing will save a lot of rocket fuel later. Since I've already picked a good launch window for Mars, and the orbital inclination is now about as low as it will go from the latitude of Cape Canaverel, it's time to go.