Humans have been captivated by Mars almost as long as we’ve been watching the night sky.
The ancient Greeks and Romans watched nightly as a reddish dot moved among the stars, growing dimmer and brighter in a two-year cycle. Each named it for the god of war; the Roman version, “Mars,” stuck. Renaissance astronomers became fascinated with the planet’s apparent backward movement, the so-called retrograde motion that could only be explained with the Sun, not the Earth, at the center of the solar system. Modern scientists have looked to Mars as a potential home for extraterrestrial life, a search that has reshaped how we explore and think about other planets.
What is it about our celestial neighbor? Is it the planet itself that mesmerizes us? Or are we still, after centuries of speculation, hoping that learning more about Mars will tell us something more about ourselves?
The idea of the plurality of worlds has long been a fascination of mine, and something that I got to dig into a lot during my Master’s degree and explored more recently in a piece over on history.com.
But speaking of missions to Mars, when I moved to LA four years ago I was ...