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Popular literature and movies about Mars that capture our imagination



The odds of you being you are huge, while the odds for you are infinitely small. It is one of the great wonders of the universe that here you are, living on earth, breathing the air.

This is how it is with the stars, the planets – with everything in the universe: Odds are always with nothing and destruction, and always against existence. It is remarkable and extremely unlikely that our planet survived the intense violence of the early solar system, but not without its things: after all, a prominent theory holds that it was a collision with a body the size of Mars that knocked the bottom of properties called the moon in. in our heaven.

Miraculously, the earth survived, allowing life ̵

1; and ultimately, our kind – to evolve. And as long as humans have existed, we have been fascinated by Mars, and more than a little scared of it too.

Much of our popular literature and films about Mars, such as “War of the Worlds”, “Invaders from Mars” and “Mars Attacks !,” have assumed that there is life on the red planet – but life that is markedly hostile to our and out to get us.

Mars fantasies

The widespread assumption that there is life on Mars is quite recent. It can be traced to the Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli, who mapped the planet in 1877 and assigned the regions ambitious names such as Elysium, Eden and Utopia.
Schiaparelli believed that he could discover oceans on the planet’s surface, as well as channels that he assumed were made by beings with knowledge of engineering. Percival Lowell, an Arizona-based astronomer, made Schiaparelli better around 1895, believing he could create an elaborate irrigation system that required an advanced civilization to build.

Popular culture soon captured that science, especially through the pen of Edgar Rice Burroughs, whose John Carter novels imagined a time portal connecting Earth and “Barsoom,” or Mars, so that it was easy to move between the two. When Carter traveled there in the second volume “The Gods of Mars” (1914), he encountered this watery scene: “To my left the sea stretched as far as the eye could reach, before only a vague, faint line indicated that it was longer. wide, while to my right a mighty river flowed, wide, calm and majestic between the scarlet banks to empty into the calm sea before me. “

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Burroughs Mars was very similar to our Earth, with all its struggle for power and wealth, and Burroughs had a good explanation for why the planet had no clear water on its surface: Its inhabitants had brought it to underground waterways to protect it from evaporation. and hide it from each other.

Most of Barsoom, he wrote, was instead covered by moss that grew in the dead seabed that stretched across the planet. A few hidden valleys housed forests and marshes, as well as warring empires that were once rich in agricultural and mineral treasures that are foolish enough to make each other in – and kill their planet on the coup.

A home away from home

As late as the 1960s, it was believed that Mars had life. It was not until the arrival of NASA’s Mariner 4 mission in 1965 that we finally came to think of Mars as a definitively dead planet; the airplanes showed a surface that was hit by meteorite cratering and without the slightest hint of living things. Far from Eden, Mars was a kind of cold hell, and gasped its last even when the earth took its first swallows with oxygen-containing breath.

It’s Mars that Mark Watney finds in Andy Weir’s brilliant 2011 “The Martian”. Apart from the plants he grows – he is a skilled botanist – he is the only way of life on the red planet, after getting lost in a howling sandstorm and abandoned by his explorers. Immediately resourceful, he manages to stay alive, but not without plenty of close-knit scrap.

The odds are against him, he knows: “If the oxygenator breaks down, I will suffocate,” he says. “If the water goes back, I will die of thirst. If Hab (Mars Lander Habitat) breaks, I will just explode. If none of these things happen, I will eventually run out of food and starve to death.”

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Even with such risks, there is more and more talk of the colonization of Mars, now a very real prospect that was once the province of fiction. Kim Stanley Robinson’s “Mars Trilogy” from the 1990s, consisting of the novels “Red Mars”, “Green Mars” and “Blue Mars”, suggests that soon – in 2026, to be exact – we will begin colonization and bring Mars back to life through terraforming and creating an oxygenated atmosphere.

The trilogy is also refreshingly utopian, in contrast to the usual gloomy attitude of much Mars-set fiction, in that Robinson imagines how by changing the planet, we will become better, fairer people, welcome strangers among us and found a true Eden on high.

For his part, Elon Musk, the inventor and entrepreneur, has announced preliminary plans to fund a colony of at least 80,000 settlers, which puts us completely in the territory of Ray Bradbury, the science fiction writer whose 1950 novel “The Martian Chronicles” looks for itself a kind of suburban earth transposed to Mars.

The only problem is that Martians are already there, and when humans land on the red planet in the then distant year of 1999, it does not take long before the Martians hunt them. Earthlings take their revenge when Bradbury imagines a pandemic wiping out the Martians, leaving the planet to a new race of colonists who can only, Bradbury suggests, have been a distant cousin of the missing Martians.

Musk’s colonists will fly one-way tickets, unlike Weir’s Mark Watney. And even if they had a round trip price, it’s another matter if they wanted a planet worth coming home to. Bradbury’s book ends with the people at home struggling in oblivion as surely as the Burroughs’ Barsoomians did.

Hans is far from the only novel that imagines a ruined home planet, a tropical that is becoming more and more common as we actually populated the one nest we now have. As science fiction vehicles like “Elysium” and “Blade Runner” have instructed us, Earth is a place we will be lucky to leave.

Gregory McNamee writes about science, food, geography and many other topics from his home in Arizona. Visit him at www.gregorymcnamee.com.


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