|Face on Mars, NASA Viking Spacecraft 1976|
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!
To the Greeks it was Ares, the God of War, and it is from the Romans we get to the name Mars. But 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!
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:
COMMUNICATING WITH THE MARTIANS
"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...
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.
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.