Our Fascination with Mars
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Our Fascination with Mars
Ancient mythology refers to it as the God of War. Tuesday, the second day of the week, is translated from the Latin ‘dies Martin’ and from French ‘mardi’. In fact the seven days of the week come from the five wandering planets, the Sun and Moon. It has been the love of science fiction writers and movie makers. Commonly known as the red planet, Mars has always had to extra bit of interest over the other planets of our solar system.
During the great opposition of 1877 when Mars was closest to Earth in its 26 month orbit around the Sun, the Italian astronomer and science historian Giovanni Schiaparelli took advantage of the planet’s position by making observations of the Martian terrain with his telescope. His records state that he saw dark markings which he called “canali” or canals in English. To him, this ment systems of water and hence a living civilization must exist so far away. Ðis ultimately led to the idea that “Martians” live there. Mass panic erupted amongst millions of radio listeners in October 1938 as news bulletins interrupted regular scheduled programming stating Martians have landed on Earth. Narrated by Orson Wells, the news seemed bleak as space ships were landing and taking over the world. Ðis was in fact the famous radio broadcast put on by Ðe Mercury Metre on the Air (radio drama) and was part of their Halloween episode. Seeing the wide spread reaction and panic, the radio station had to retract and admit it was only theatre and no such invasion existed. Earth was safe. What some people pass off as pure science fiction, others keep an open mind to the possibility of life residing somewhere else beginning with our next door neighbour, Mars. throughout time people other visionaries have had the notion life must exist past the confines of Earth.
Dating back more than two thousand years, the Greek philosopher Anaxagoras (510–428 BC) contemplated this notion which led to the term Panspermia meaning “seeds everywhere” with the hypothesis that life exists on or around all celestial bodies. For the most part, observations of Mars were conducted from ground based telescopes until we started sending unmanned space probes to the red planet. Of the fifty-five missions that were constructed since 1960, half of them partially or fully failed. At the top of the successful list were Viking 1 and 2, identical space crD Ñ–s that each consisted of an obiter and a lander, with missions lasting 2,245 and 1,281 sols or days respectively. Now the real science began to answer many questions including, did water once flow on Mars and what about the never ending question, the possibility of life
Journal of Astrobiology & Outreach