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This is where it all started. Ever since 1877 when Giovanni Schiaparelli thought he saw features on the surface of Mars that looked like canals, the picture of the Red Planet that would dominate the public mind for nearly a century was becoming established. Mars was once a world of green fields and wide oceans, but being a much older world than Earth, the oceans were drying up like my credit rating and the Martians were struggling to keep their ancient, advanced civilisation alive by building a giant network of canals to bring water from the polar ice caps to the equatorial regions before they turned entirely to deserts. Edgar Rice Burroughs had a field day with this in his Barsoom stories; depicting a dying world where colourful half-
In the top picture by Paul, we can see his version of the Martian cities. Here is a great technological metropolis nestled on the banks of a canal that has been cut straight as a die. The dim Martian twilight is lit by giant globes on great towers pierced by monorail tubes while strangely coloured crops are tended below.
The title picture of this page shows just how far we've come in how we see the future. The idea that Mars was alive was a perfectly respectable position in the '30s. Even scientists who declared Mars a "dead" planet admitted that there were probably mosses and lichens to be found. Mosses and lichens! Today, we are calmly told that finding a fossil bacterium on Mars would throw us into an existential shock from which human civilisation might never recover. We have definitely lowered the bar.