Nagin Cox: What Does Time On Mars Teach Us About Time On Earth?

Feb 5, 2021

Part 4 of the TED Radio Hour episode It Takes Time

NASA engineer Nagin Cox lives on Earth but works on Mars time, where days are longer and time works differently. Her work with the rovers has entirely changed the way she thinks about time on Earth.

About Nagin Cox

Nagin Cox is a spacecraft operations engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For her current mission, Cox serves as the deputy team chief of the engineering operations team for the Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover. She has also held leadership and system engineering roles on robotic missions including the Galileo Mission to Jupiter, the Mars Spirit and Oppurtunity Rovers, the Kepler Exoplanet Hunter, the InSight Mission to Mars, and the Mars Curiosity Rover.

Prior to joining NASA in 1993, she served six years in the U.S. Air Force, including duty as a space operations officer at NORAD/U.S. Space Command.

Cox received her master's in Space Operations Systems Engineering from Air Force Institute of Technology, and two bachelor's in Engineering and Psychology from Cornell University.

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TENILLE: My name is Tenille (ph). I'm from Hampton Roads, Va.

NICOLE: My name's Nicole (ph), and I live in Savannah, Ga.

ELENA: Hi, my name is Elena (ph). I am from Chicago, Ill.


So in the spirit of today's episode, we wanted to take some time to hear from you, dear listeners.

HANNA TRAN: Hi, my name is Hanna Tran (ph).

ELIZABETH WOOD: This is Elizabeth Wood (ph).

OTTILIA: My name's Ottilia (ph).

ZOMORODI: Because we have all had to rethink how we pace ourselves over the past year.

WOOD: Every school week seems to be incredibly long, like maybe a century.

OTTILIA: I used to think a 60-second plank was the longest, most miserable thing in the world.

ELENA: No way to measure the progress of my day, nothing to accomplish, no finish line.

TENILLE: I would sit at my desk in class and ask myself, how is it only 11 a.m.? But now I'm always asking myself, how is it already 11 a.m.?

TRAN: I wake up, see the same people, do mostly the same things, go to bed, repeat. I feel like I'm trapped in the movie "Groundhog Day."

NICOLE: I'm finding myself more and more committed to the idea of preserving my time for self-care and for exploring my hobbies and passions. So if anything, this past year has put into perspective how fleeting, fragile and meaningful our time truly is. And I know that for myself moving forward, I want to do all I can to honor that time as much as possible.

ELENA: I finished recording this audio, so going to go check that box off my list (laughter). Thanks.

ZOMORODI: Those were just a few of your thoughts on rethinking your relationship to time. For more listener reflections, check out our podcast. And thank you so much to all of you who sent us your messages. And as always, thank you for listening to our show this week on It Takes Time. To learn more about the people who were on today's show, go to To see hundreds more TED Talks, check out or the TED app.

Our TED Radio production staff at NPR includes Jeff Rogers, Sanaz Meshkinpour, Rachel Faulkner, Diba Mohtasham, James Delahoussaye, J.C. Howard, Katie Monteleone, Maria Paz Gutierrez, Christina Cala, Matthew Cloutier and Farrah Safari, with help from Daniel Shukin. Our intern is Janet Oujang Lee (ph). Our theme music was written by Ramtin Arablouei. Our partners at TED are Chris Anderson, Colin Helms, Anna Phelan and Michelle Quint. I'm Manoush Zomorodi, and you've been listening to the TED Radio Hour from NPR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.