INTRODUCTION
Mars is essentially in the same orbit [as Earth] . . .
Mars is somewhat the same distance from the Sun, which
is very important. We have seen pictures where there are
canals, we believe, and water. If there is water, that means
there is oxygen. If there is oxygen, that means we can
breathe.—V
I C E P R E S I D E N T DA N Q UAY L E ,
August 11, 1989 (quoted in David
Grinspoon, Venus Revealed)
≥5≥
W H Y M A R S ?
For well over a century, Mars has been at the center of scientific and
philosophical debates about humankind’s place in the cosmos. Since
Giovanni Schiaparelli announced in 1878 that he had observed canali
(channels or canals) crisscrossing its surface, the planet has been the
subject of thousands of scientific articles, dozens of full-length studies,
and the setting for hundreds of science-fiction novels, stories, and mov-
ies. A century before Schiaparelli, astronomers had begun to explain the
seasonal changes they observed on Mars in terms of what they knew
about the climate and biology of Earth. Although specific analogies be-
tween the two planets have changed dramatically since then, scientists
still frequently resort to terrestrial analogies to describe Mars. Over time,
such analogies have reflected changing conceptions of both worlds: while
Mars has been perceived through the lenses of terrestrial sciences, the
study of the red planet has shaped, and continues to shape, humankind’s
understanding of Earth. Since the height of the canal controversy a cen-
tury ago, lessons extrapolated from, or imposed on, Mars as a ‘‘dying
planet’’ have been invoked to support competing, even antithetical, views
Previous Page Next Page