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Mars, the muse: how Red Planet has inspired Earth

tech reviews Updated: Nov 06, 2013 02:44 IST
Hindustan Times
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India's first mission to Mars blasted off successfully on Tuesday, completing the first stage of an 11-month journey that could see the country's low-cost programme win Asia's race to the Red Planet.

It started with a book

In 1898, HG Wells brought Mars into popular culture with his book "The War of the Worlds".

It revolved around the idea of ‘Martians’ invading the Earth and spawned the genre of ‘alien invasion’ fiction.

In 1938, Orson Welles' radio adaptation of the novel, on the eve of Halloween, was so realistic that Americans flooded the streets in panic.

In 2005, the book was adapted as a film under Steven Spielberg's direction, starring actor Tom Cruise.

Here are some other instances of Mars finding its way into popular culture:


The Martian Chronicles (1950), written by Ray Bradbury who died this year, was a mosaic of two worlds running out of time. It was turned into a mini-series in the 1980s.

In Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels (1726), astronomers on the fictional island of Laputa are said to have discovered two satellites around Mars. The book was written a century before an astronomer discovered the Martian satellites.


Mars Attacks! trading cards were released in the 1960s and director Tim Burton used these as inspiration for his 1996 satire by the same name starring Jack Nicholson

Total Recall (1990) saw Arnold Schwarzeneggar haunted by the same dream every night about a journey to Mars.

John Carter (2012) is transplanted to Mars, where he discovers a lush, wildly diverse planet whose main inhabitants are 12-foot tall


Sitcom The Big Bang Theory has a character who is responsible for taking care of Nasa’s Mars rover - Curiosity. He accidentally crashes the rover in one episode.

The cartoon character Bugs Bunny had a cosmic foe Marvin the Martian, the ant-like conqueror who carries a ray gun but dresses like the Roman god Mars

Comic books

Like Superman, the Martian Manhunter is a noble and powerful alien who flies over earth in the DC Comics Universe


Apart from Frank Sinatra wanting to ‘see what life is like on Jupiter and Mars’ (Fly Me to the Moon), musicians have long been fascinated with the concept of Mars:

Band names: Mission to Mars, M/A/R/R/S, the Mars Volta

Stage names: (Bruno Mars, Mick Mars of Motley Crue

Musical inspiration: David Bowie's "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars,"; Paul McCartney's "Venus and Mars.

The Mars rover Curiosity broadcasted a song by Will i Am from Mars