The question of life on Mars goes back more than a century to 1877 when an Italian astronomer, Giovanni Schiaparelli, drew maps and conclusions about the planet and its inhabitants. As time passed and telescopes improved, we learned that Mars is less than the Eden it was thought to be.
Now in the film The Martian starring Matt Damon, we can learn more about this mysterious planet that has such a fascination for us. If you’re interested in space exploration in all its possibilities, consider exploring Mars for your next research paper.
Life on Mars
Because the telescopes of that day were limited, what Schiaparelli saw appeared as a lush landscape of water channels that he assumed could only be manufactured by an intelligent hand.
Burkhard Bilger outlined the history of “The Martian Chroniclers” in an April 22, 2013, article for NewYorker.com. According to Bilger, the first decades of Mars research built on the hopes of earlier speculation. So enamored were researchers and science fiction writers with the possibilities of life on the red planet that the National Academy of Sciences issued a statement in March 1965 that, “…we believe it is entirely reasonable that Mars is inhabited with living organisms and that life independently originated there.”
Thanks to space missions such as NASA’s Mariner 4 spacecraft, we now know that the Martian landscape exhibits very little water. Rather than a paradise, the planet is marked with craters, frozen and scoured by solar winds. Yet all hope of finding life has not been abandoned.
“Still, we keep going back. Like a delinquent sibling, Mars is all we’ve got—the next Earth-like planet may be in the Tau Ceti system, seventy trillion miles away—and its virtues nearly redeem its vices,” Bilger said.
The mythology and reality of Mars
Mars has always captured our imagination. Writers have made the red planet a permanent part of our shared culture through their works.
Some of the most famous books about Mars include:
- The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
- The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
- Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
The reality of Mars exploration is just as fantastic as any science fiction novel. In the book, Red Rover: Inside Story of Robotic Space Exploration, from Genesis to the Mars Rover Curiosity, Roger Wiens draws a portrait of our modern day explorers, the robots.
“As in the expeditions of previous generations—those of Lewis and Clark, Columbus, Magellan, Marco Polo, or Admiral Perry—the goal is to uncover secrets of faraway lands. Although there is no cost in human lives, jobs, reputations, and scientific discoveries are certainly at stake. This is risky but glorious business,” Wiens stated.
You’ll find Wien’s book along with a host of other research paper resources at Questia. You can use the “library” feature to search by category for topics from art to technology. If you’re looking for a particular type of resource you can also conduct a search by publications including: books, academic journals, magazines and newspapers.
Will you learn anything from watching the film The Martian? Maybe not so much according to Jamie Grierson. In his September 20, 2015, article for TheGuardian.com,” Space experts challenge accuracy of The Martian,” Grierson explained.
The story is based on the book by Andy Weir and concerns a botanist who gets stranded on Mars after a storm of hurricane proportions. Grierson cited comments by John Logsdon, a former director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University.
First, Logsdon doesn’t think that a hurricane would be possible in Mars’ thin atmosphere. “Logsdon has also questioned the impact the low gravity on Mars would have on the character’s ability to walk, suggesting he would hop rather than the normal Earth-like stroll depicted in the film,” Grierson added.
Even so, Scott Hubbard, professor at Stanford University found the plot line covering Damon’s efforts at growing food on the red planet to be credible.
The Martian opened in theatres on October 2, 2015.
Conduct your own exploration of Mars and other science and technology topics at Questia.
Do you think that scientists will eventually find life on Mars? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.