In 1877 Giovanni Shiaparelli observed Mars through his telescope. He noted what appeared to be channels possibly carved by ancient rivers or glaciers. When his report of the channels was translated into English, these 'canali' were mistranslated into canals. Canals are not a natural phenomena and this unfortunate mistake seemed to point to the existence of a Martian civilisation.
Several astronomers latched onto this idea despite Mr Shiaparelli's protestations and public interest grew.

It was against this background that H.G Wells wrote his book 'The War of the Worlds' which tells of a martian invasion of earth at the start of the twentieth century.

This story was later retold by Orson Welles for his radio show in the 1930's. The show was performed in the format of a news bulletin and tens of thousands of listeners across America became convinced that they were actually listening to live reports of a martian invasion.

Since then there have been many stories written regarding martians and much speculation about life on Mars.

In 1976 two Viking space probes landed on Mars and carried out experiments to find signs of life. These experiments were inconclusive but reduced the possibility of life existing on Mars.

In the late 1990's the examination of a Martian meteorite again seemed to indicate that life had been found on Mars. Since then further tests have proved inconclusive and we will probably not know whether life ever existed on Mars until a space probe is able to bring back samples of the Martian soil.

There is one further twist to the tale.
Many photos have been taken of the surface of Mars and some of these seem to show strange features. There is the 'Mars Face' (see above) and a region that appears to contain pyramids.
Could these be natural hills and undulations or are they the ancient tombs of the canal builders of Mars?


Search for life on Mars

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