Mars; Magnificent Cosmos; Scientific American Presents; by Staff Editor; 2 Page(s)
Mars's relative nearness, mythological connotations and even its hue have made it the favored planet of popular culture. Countless works of science fiction and science have explored the possibility of life on Mars. In 1976, however, the two U.S. Viking probes found no evidence of life at their landing sites.
Two events thrust Mars back into the public consciousness lately. In 1996 a team from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Johnson Space Center and Stanford University announced that unusual characteristics in a meteorite known to have come from Mars could be best interpreted as the vestiges of ancient bacterial life. In the summer of 1997 the Mars Pathfinder lander and its diminutive roving vehicle, Sojourner, analyzed and imaged Martian rocks, atmosphere and soil. Investigators concluded that many of the rocks were deposited by a massive flood at least two billion years ago and that some of them were surprisingly similar to a class of Earth rocks known as andesites.