NEXT STOP MARS?
One “giant leap for mankind” put the red planet firmly back on the cultural agenda
After man first set foot on the moon on 20 July 1969, humans walking on Mars – rather than Martians walking on Earth – seemed more of a distinct, if distant, possibility.
The moon landing had a global psychological impact. For the first time, humanity could claim to have found, walked on and photographed a truly new land.
The moon itself was rarely taken seriously as a possible home. Instead, in the aftermath of Neil Armstrong’s ‘giant leap’, it opened up the tantalising possibility of humans colonising Mars. If only the atmosphere were not too thin; if only there were water.
Terraforming – the process of modifying another planet’s environment to make it hospitable to humans – was a word first used in a 1949 short story, but it became a staple concept of science fiction novels from the 1970s onwards. One of the most famous examples is Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy (1993– 96). This centuries-long saga drew on contemporary scientific and philosophical developments to take readers from the touchdown of the first 100 people on Mars to their subterranean habitat, the drilling of deep holes to release heat and water, and the ultimate thickening of the atmosphere.
Buzz Aldrin walks on the moon in 1969. Suddenly Mars didn’t seem so unattainable