Now that the Mars Science Laboratory has begun its journey, let's step back and remember those depictions of Martian living from years gone by. According to certain past dreamers, Mars is occasionally occupied by nefarious sentient automobiles.
And for more of your favorite Martians, see our field guide to denizens of the Red Planet.
Let's start with the 1910 Thomas Edison-produced film A Trip To Mars, wherein a chemistry experiment gone wrong causes a professor to defy gravity and float to the next planet out. Of course, Mars is filled with giants and pissed-off sentient trees.
The 1924 silent film Aelita: Queen of Mars, which features bizarre sets and lovelorn Martian royalty pining for Earthmen.
In the 1940s, the pulp funny book Planet Comics provided outlandish accounts of life across the solar system. According to the authors, Mars was overrun with Roman titans.
Gauss, pondering this problem, came to the conclusion that our signal had to be a mathematical figure and nothing else, and he selected the one made famous by Pythagoras, the triangle with a square over each side, proof that the square of the hypothenuse equals in area the sum of the other two squares. If the Martians or Venusians are intelligent enough to have progressed to simple geometry they must know this figure, and it must mean the same to them as it does to us.
The next problem was how to produce a mathematical figure of the necessary size, and here Gauss had a brilliant idea. He suggested making it of dark pine forests planted in the Siberian tundra in strips several miles wide and up to a hundred miles long. The interior of the triangle and the squares would be planted with wheat, for contrast. Aside from its mathematical meaning such a design could never be accidental, for nobody would plant things in such a crazy pattern with so much waste of space unless there was a good reason for it.
No budding Martian explorer would be prepared without your handy "Man From Mars" radio hat! And just look at that sterling endorsement from Life magazine! (Popular Science, 1949)
In this bizarre 1951 public safety cartoon "Stop Driving Us Crazy," Rusty — a Martian saboteur — comes to Earth to harass our planet's motorists. When he gets here, he learns that it's a sin in the eyes of the Lord to drive recklessly. And no, this wasn't the prequel to Battlefield Earth.
Leslie Carr's depiction of a Martian colony from the 1951 book The Exploration of Space by Arthur C. Clarke (Via PaleoFuture)
This 1952 issue of Mystery In Space informed readers that Mars was overrun with equine overlords who all had gambling problems.
In the 1956 corporate cartoon Destination Earth, Martians ogle our nigh endless supply of petroleum products. Nigh endless!
In 1957, the TV program Disneyland put together Mars and Beyond, a snazzy episode explaining how Martian colonization would proceed. In this segment, the narrator goes over depictions of Mars in popular literature. Check out early Disney depictions of H.G. Wells' tripods and Edgar Rice Burroughs' characters.
Martian dome construction from the 1950's Dan Dare's Space Book. (Via Dark Roasted Blend).
Another imaginative segment from Mars and Beyond hypothesized what Martian flora and fauna would look like.
This 1962 insurance advertisement in the Record City, Michigan Traverse-Eagle offered a rather rosy assessment that we will colonize Mars sometime in the next five weeks — "By 2012 AD, Mars may make a nice site for a family picnic, via your space craft, with a few stops for refreshments at space platforms along the way. Earth's Moon may be the site of our suburbs." (Via PaleoFuture Blog)
The American conquest of Mars, from the 1964 book Rockets to Explore the Unknown.
In 1975, Eric Bergaust's children's book Colonizing the Planets predicted we'd rule the spaceways in what appear to be massive violas.
In 1975, Orson Welles asked "Who's Out There?"
Top image: the never-was Soviet Mars colony of 2061 by Green Forest.