Geo016 - Exploration of Mars

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Geo016 / Exploration of Mars / (M) 3:00-5:20 / Lincoln Field 105 / Prof. James Head

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Josef Tallo (02/11/04)

Mars has been a subject of human fascination since the ancient times. Mars was named after Mars (Greek: Ares), the Roman god of war, because it shines with a red color resembling blood, which is appropriate for the god of war. Mars has always been fascinating to humans because early on when the skies were clear all around the world, the planets could be seen with unbelievable clarity. Mars, being our neighboring planet, could be seen as this big bright red object in the sky. When the earliest telescopes were used to see Mars closer, the large dark spots and the “white spots” at the poles, persuaded people to believe that there was possibly intelligent extraterrestrial life. When telescopes became advanced enough, Schiaparelli noticed streaks that he called “canali”. This term was widely misunderstood and was thought to have meant that there were canals that were artifically built by intelligent life. Early astronomers also noticed the melting of ice, and seen dust clouds and this only added to their speculation of extraterrestrial life.

There has been a major change in our perspective of the presence of life on Mars over the past several hundred years. It used to be a popular belief that Mars was populated by these large green creatures. While science and technology became more advanced, and more accurate and detailed pictures were obtained, societies' beliefs changed to believing that there was some type of organismic life forms. People went from believing that there were entire civilizations, to hoping to find small strains of bacteria inhabiting some part of the red planet.

A number of factors led to change in beliefs among society. One of the most important ones has been due to the advances in technology. Building bigger, better, and more powerful telescopes proved to people what was really there. The publicity of possible life forms have for decades been integrated into the public by means of comics, newspaper articles, radio, television, and many other forms. Although people have always been skeptical of what really exists, the media and government have a great impact on what people believe. Also, what science discovers about earth itself has a great impact on what people believe, because we can and have applied it to learning more about possible life forms on other planets.


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