In early 2021, millions of people around the globe waited for the Perseverance rover to touch down on Mars, revealing a high-definition video of the rocky terrain.
Our fascination with the red planet isn’t a recent phenomenon. It’s been the subject of intense scrutiny since Galileo first viewed it in his telescope in 1610. Our understanding of the planet has been shaped by discovery after discovery. And many of them were documented in the local newspaper.
In 1877, rumors of life on Mars began circulating when Giovanni Schiaparelli, an Italian scientist, viewed what he described as a network of canalis, or channels, on the surface of the planet. Structures obviously created by intelligent beings, according to him.
Although his theory was disproven within a few decadesーnew, more powerful telescopes showed that those lines were most likely an optical illusionーthe thrilling idea of an alien civilization on Mars caught hold of our imagination.
Nikola Tesla, the famed physicist and engineer, helped fuel the fantasy. In the early 1900s, he claimed he’d received a transmission from our planetary neighbor, causing a media firestorm.
By 1948, our belief in intelligent life on Mars had been tempered by experiments that gave us glimpses into the true nature of the red planet’s temperature and atmosphere. Not very suitable for habitation. But in 1948, some scientists were still convinced that life existed even if it was “primitive” and “lichen-like.”
Currently, Perseverance hasn’t discovered any Martians, but maybe we will see life on Mars someday. Even if they’re just transplants from Earth.
If you love reading about history as told by those who lived out, check out newspapers dating clear back to 1607 on NewspaperArchive.com.