Mysterious Mars!


Why are we so obsessed with Mars?

As one of our closest and most familiar neighbours in space, Mars has served as the source of legends and theories ever since the storytellers first slept under the stars. With its 24.6 hour long day and snowy polar caps, it faintly resembles Earth. And thus Mars is really the only place that looks favourable for life—whether aliens or as a station for humans.

The obsession and the thirst for knowledge about the planet among people is so much that when, not long ago, a few scientists half-seriously suggested a one-way manned mission to Mars, the Internet was flooded with volunteers.

And now India too has started its romance with the red planet by successfully launching, “Mangalyaan” or “Mars Orbiter Mission”—a proud moment for all Indians as we can finally say “Yes, we can”!

Nevertheless, much before India was even a part of the space research scene, the Mariner missions of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the 1960s, were the first successful missions of life on Mars and cleared a lot of theories that were floating around since before that scientists thought Mars had water and life.

“Mars’s spectrum, its color in the near infrared, mimics that of vegetation. Back in the ’50s and ’60s, they concluded that was evidence of chlorophyll, and Mars had vegetation,” says Josh Bandfield, an expert on Mars and a Planetary Scientist at the University of Washington.

And so, if people believed that there were plants and bacteria living on the planet, the idea of evil invaders from Mars or goofy green Martians were not so far fetched either. From novels, sci-fi thrillers to pulp fictions, our ever changing scientific knowledge of the red planet has influenced the planet’s place in art and fiction.

For example, earlier in the day, there were movies about invading aliens like H.G Wells’s bestselling novel The War of the Worlds which is set in England where Martians invade the Earth and colonise it. The book was later adapted into a film by Steven Spielberg in the year 2005 starring Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning.

Now, thanks to  NASA which is yet to find life on Mars, in the present day fiction it is the humans who travel to space and land on the lifeless desert of Mars. One example being Total Recall (the 1990 one), where a human goes to Mars.

And the recent one being Walt Disney’s John Carter.

These are just a few examples but there are pot loads of films and novels on Mars out of which some are successful while the others are a flop, which just goes on to prove, the importance of Mars in our life.

It’s important for us maybe because it reflects a deep desire for “another world” or perhaps because it represents a deep longing for something outside our own world, in fact something outside or alien to ourselves.

Well, whatever be the reason  unless and until we can actually go to Mars, let’s just satiate our curiosity by enjoying watching it onscreen.

Sukriti Mathur

What do you think is the reason behind our obsession with Mars? Write your opinions in the comment box below.

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