Mars Fever

Face on Mars, NASA Viking Spacecraft 1976

Powered by RedCircle

Mars has long captured the imagination of mankind. And for good reason, as one of the planets nearest to Earth, it is one of the larger and brighter objects in the sky and its red orange color makes it stand out even more.

Har Decher, meaning "The Red One", thats what the Ancient Egyptians called mars as early as 2000BC. They also identified Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn. 

The Babylonians, also BC, made careful observations of Mars, which they called "Nergal". Nergal being a Babylonian war god with a fiery personality, fitting that he gets a red planet. Nergal may have also been roughly associated with Shamash the sun god, which makes sense, because when Mars is in "Opposition" (meaning Mars and the Sun are on direct opposite sides of Earth) it rises in the east as the sun sets, and sets in the west as the sun rises!

Relief of the Babylonian god Negral, Public Domain"Mars" Sculpture by Johann Gottfried Schadow, photo by QuarterLatin1968, CC BY-SA 3.0

To the Greeks it was Ares, the God of War, and it is from the Romans we get to the name MarsBut our modern infatuation with Mars really begins in 1877 with Giovanni Schiaparelli. Giovanni was observing Mars while it was in oppositon. He began naming features on Mars. Most notably numerous seemingly linear "canali". Canali in Italian means "channels", like a river channel. But it English it sounds a lot like "canal", which is a man made structure!
Schiaparelli's Map of Mars

As word of "canals" on Mars spread, belief in nearby intelligent life spread with it. After all "canals" are built, and building major canals was something that was happening quite a bit in this time period.  Combine that with the influence of books like French author Camille Flammarion's "The Plurality of Inhabited Worlds" in 1862, and "Real and Imaginary Worlds" published in 1865, where we get a glimpse of what we might call alien scifi, and Jules Verne's "From Earth to the Moon" also published in 1865, and the collective imagination of mankind was sold.

One of the most famous people to be influenced by this language was Percival Lowell, who would go on to found the Lowell observatory in Flagstaff Arizona. Lowell, along with Schiaparelli was a credentialed academic. And Lowell was obsessed with Mars, he would write three books on the subject, Mars in 1895, Mars and its Canals in 1906, and Mars as the Abode of life in 1908. 

And of course, you can't mention this turn of the century history of Mars without HG Wells "The War of the Worlds" published in 1898, and its infamous radio panic in the 1930's. 

But I think the most interesting man to come down with 'Mars Fever' is the almost mythical Nikola Tesla. Tesla is of course well known for his pioneering work in Alternating-Current, the type of electricity that runs much the world. But he's also at the forefront of Radio, and a handful of other things like X-Ray tubes. But it's his Radio work Im interested in here. There was and is contention as to who was the first to the scene in radio between Nikola Tesla and the more famous radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi. But for 'Mars Fever' its Tesla all the way. 

Around Christmas of the year 1900, Tesla wrote a letter to the American Red Cross from his Lab in Colorado Springs declaring that he had made contact with intelligence from another world!

"The retrospect is glorious, the prospect inspiring: Much might be said of both. But one idea dominates my mind. This - my best, my dearest - is for your noble cause.I have observed electrical actions, which have appeared inexplicable. Faint and uncertain thought they were, they have given me a deep conviction and foreknowledge that are long all human beings on this globe, as one, will turn their eyes to the firmament above, with feelings of love and reverance, thrilled by the glad news: Brethren! We have received a message from another world, unknown and remote. It reads: One...Two...Three..." Nikola Tesla

A short time later he would expand on this incident, and share his belief that it came from none other than Mars, and the now even more probable Martians. In the paper Colliers Weekly, in an article he titled "Talking with the Planets" he wrote:

"At the present stage of progress, there would be no insurmountable obstacle in constructing a machine capable of conveying a message to Mars, nor would there be any great difficulty in recording signals transmitted to us by the inhabitants of that planet, if they be skilled electricians. Communication once established, even in the simplest way, as by a mere interchange of numbers, the progress toward more intelligible communication would be rapid. Absolute certitude as to the receipt and interchange of messages would be reached as soon as we could respond with the number “four,” say, in reply to the signal “one, two, three.” The Martians, or the inhabitants of whatever planet had signalled to us, would understand at once that we had caught their message across the gulf of space and had sent back a response. To convey a knowledge of form by such means is, while very difficult, not impossible, and I have already found a way of doing it. What a tremendous stir this would make in the world! How soon will it come? For that it will some time be accomplished must be clear to every thoughtful being."

Nikola Tesla had given birth to Radio Astronomy. I did a podcast on that specific topic called "Nikola Tesla and the Martians" if you want more on Tesla and want to get into other strange space signals and the prospect of aliens. You can find it on my home page or click one of these iTunes, Anchor, YouTube, Bitchute or search for "Wading In" wherever you listen.

Tesla was wrong of course, his message did not come from Martians. But he wasn't all that far off in picking an origin point. In 1996, Dr James Corum and his brother Kenneth Corum, both with electrical engineering backgrounds, began testing a new theory… The Corum’s knew how Tesla’s equipment was set up, and based on data collected long after Tesla's time from space probes like Voyager 1, The Corum’s suggested that Tesla could have detected signals originating from Jupiter that are associated with storms on Jupiter. Computer models show that it was very plausible that these storms matched up to the timeline of Tesla’s original experiment. They could also reproduce the same kinds of signals since we know what kind of radio setup Tesla was using. And if that wasn’t enough, the timing of the event would have put Mars very near Jupiter in the sky at the time. So for an observer on Earth it could absolutely appear as if Mars was the source. You can find this research online, the paper is titled “Nikola Tesla and the Electrical Signals of Interplanetary Origin” and it was published in 1996.

But backing up a bit, "Mars Fever" as it was in Tesla's day never really died out. People, even within NASA, hoped to find something on Mars all the way up until the Mariner 4 mission in the 1960s. Mariner put a damper on the hopes of finding a thriving ET community by pointing us towards Mars being a cold, dry, desert like planet with minimal atmosphere and no magnetic field. Mars seemed more like the moon than earth...
Mariner 4 Martian Surface
But in 1976, the Viking 1 mission returned an image that would reignite Mars Fever. The famous, or infamous "Face" on Mars featured at the very top of this post. The face feature was noticed and originally dismissed by NASA as a trick of light and shadow. But the public reaction was more like Percival Lowell's. Except instead of looking for current life, we were looking for past life. With the Face on Mars being something akin to the Great Sphinx of Egypt. The face on Mars would be a focus of conversation (and maybe still is in some circles) until the Mars Recon Orbiter in the 2000s snapped a much higher resolution of the Cydonia Face, showing it to just be a funny shaped mountain or hill.

Mars Recon Orbiter "Face on Mars" and the Viking 1 "Face on Mars" in the lower right
So that was the end of that. Or was it? Some people think these newer higher resolution images asked more questions. A new thing was spotted, a pyramid.
The "D&M Pyramid"
There are plenty of other pictures since take of Mars that claim to show potential archaeological sites. And this isn't the only "pyramid" some people see in Cydonia.

And so "Mars Fever" has evolved. From mythical gods losing favor to Martians about as advanced as we are, busy building canals, cities, and radios. To extinct Martians that left behind grand artifacts like the Pyramids of Giza or the Nazca Lines of Peru. And we still aren't done with that evolution. 

The current Mars fever, led by spacecraft such as the Mars Recon Orbiter, the Curiosity rover, and the soon to be Mars 2020 rover still involves the search for life. Though not on the grand scales of Percival Lowell, Nikola Tesla, or any of the countless people who looked at the Viking image and saw a face. Instead today the search for life on Mars is centered around ancient life, that was perhaps nothing more than a single bacteria living in a shallow pool of briney water on or near the surface. 

A piece of meteorite ALH84001, discovered in Antartica in 1984 and believed to have originated from Mars has a feature that looks to be some kind of fossilized organism.

But much like seeing something that resembles a face and declaring it a monument, NASA, and ESA Scientists caution against seeing something that merely looks familiar and taking on bold beliefs. But that is not to say that no scientists or other experts believe it may be alien, plenty of them do. 

Along with this we have discovered lots of pro-alien news about Mars, the right kinds of things are still in the soil. Slushy briny flowing water of sorts has potentially been found just beneath the surface in some regions, and the Curiosity Rover snapped some pictures of a type of rock that generally only forms in water, as well as what looks like the bed of a long disappeared body of water. 

The Mars 2020 Rover will go one step further than the Curiosity Rover. Curiosity is primarily investigating whether or not the environment could have had life, Mars 2020 will look directly for past life itself. But the best way to explore is still Humans! Humans, unlike machines have the capacity to look around really fast and make decisions in a snap. 

There's just no way for us to get to Mars right now. It's a shame the Apollo program couldn't have continued and evolved. And it's a bigger shame IMO, that the US government is so hell bent on propping up the ridiculously expensive and soon to be obsolete Senate, oops I mean "SPACE Launch System". Which theoretically in an iteration that still only exists on paper could carry the similarly outdated and heavy Orion capsule to the Moon, oops I mean Mars. 

Our best bet, and the future for Mars Fever, aside from robotic missions, probably looks something like the SpaceX BFR carrying the SpaceX Starship. Or Elon's proposed "Interplanetary Transport System"

Or whatever gets cooked up by similar companies like Jeff Bezo's "Blue Origin".  But however we get there, I think it's a safe bet that the coming evolution of "Mars Fever" whether it poans out or is just a dream will involve terraforming in some capacity, and the prospect of having a second earth of sorts.

In many ways it has already started. With people volunteering for potential one-way (you're gonna die) trips to the Red Planet, and SciFi ideas like building a giant shield to artificially "restore" the effects of Mar's dead magnetic field. Which is step one in the attempt to generate some kind atmosphere. The shield, in theory, would raise the temperature enough to begin slowly melting Mars polar caps, releasing greenhouse gasses into the air, further warming the planet and eventually making it a slightly more hospitable place.

There is also an idea out there that involves slamming an asteroid into Mars to melt ice into a lake lake that could persist for centuries if not thousands of years while we work on bigger plans.

There are countless ideas about how to get to Mars and what to do once we get there. That's what "Mars Fever" is really. It's not going away anytime soon, and even a return to the moon pales in comparison to getting someone on Mars. Only time will tell what becomes of Mars Fever, but until we get there and stay there, it will continue to evolve and be influenced by our Science and our SciFi.

Mars has always fascinated me, and I always look for it in the sky when I get a chance. I hope you enjoyed this post, and maybe even learned something! Below is a small list of stuff that really amplifies my own personal Mar's Fever! Cya Next time

Special thanks to @aragmar over at for the support! Check out his awesome indie SciFi series Starshatter available as paperback or eBook:

--> -->