November 28, 2022
Did you know that November 28 is Red Planet Day? Red Planet Day commemorates the Mariner 4 mission, which was launched on November 28, 1964. The spacecraft returned the first pictures of the Martian surface, and this day was created to celebrate that achievement as well as the planet Mars itself.
Unfortunately, as stunning as the pictures were that Mariner 4 returned, there was no sign of the canals (nor aliens) that many people were hoping to see. It was Percival Lowell, the American businessman and astronomer, who first conjectured that the lines he was seeing through his telescope were made by Martian inhabitants. It turned out they were just an optical illusion.
Despite this setback, there are many who are still hoping to discover some sort of life on Mars, or evidence that it once existed. This planet has been the subject of fascination for hundreds of years because of its close proximity to Earth and its red color. In fact, when you look at the history of stories about alien invasion, a good number of those dastardly villains came from our red neighbor.
Today we are less afraid that we are about to be overrun by Martians. Our movies and literature now mostly talk about exploration and colonization. Regardless of the fact that our dreams of having a close alien neighbor are a thing of the past, we remain captivated by Mars—hence the reason why authors continue to set their stories there. These are some of the most memorable, old and new:
- The Martian by Andy Weir – When an emergency forces an expedition to leave Mars in a hurry, an astronaut is accidentally left behind. Now he must use all of his ingenuity in order to survive until rescue arrives.
- The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells – Who could forget this classic tale of alien invasion that has been made into movies, television series, and radio plays? Thank goodness for Earthen bacteria!
- The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury – A collection of short stories that tells of humans settling on Mars and their encounters with the indigenous Martian inhabitants.
- Mars by Ben Bova – Part of Bova’s brilliant Grand Tour series, limited supplies and harsh conditions mark the first expedition to Mars.
- Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson – When a colony of humans attempts to settle on Mars, they end up divided into two factions over whether to terraform the planet (the Greens) or leave it in its natural state (the Reds).
- Red Rising by Pierce Brown – A hierarchy has developed hundreds of years after mankind settled on Mars. Golds are at the top, and Reds are at the bottom. Can a Red infiltrate the Golds and bring down the system?
Celebrate Red Planet Day by checking out an adventure on the planet Mars. And who knows? Maybe one day we will be living on Mars ourselves… if the Martians will let us, that is!