The history of the Red Planet features enchanted fiction, diabolical deception, frustrated hopes, cutting-edge science, and dark occult beliefs. Over the past half-century, this story intensified as the exploration of our planetary neighbor expanded with satellite photo-flybys and robotic science labs creeping across the Martian surface. Despite discovering Mars’ unsuitability for life of most every kind, myths continue to flourish about intelligent life once present there, channeled encounters with aliens, rapid space travel back and forth to Mars, and a massive military base some theorists believe exists beneath its surface. An unpredictable development in popular culture is the emergence of Ancient Astronaut Theory. The work of Zecharia Sitchin, Eric Van Däniken, and David Hatcher Childress, made popular on The History Channel's Ancient Aliens, offers a new spirituality for the pseudo-scientifically minded. Most viewers know little of the history of this deceptive theory which finds its origin in Madam Blavatsky's nineteenth-century esoteric Secret Doctrine, American 20th century science fiction writers who created famous pulp fiction short stories and novellas (Asimov, Bradbury, Heinlein), but especially in the celebrated dark fiction of H.P. Lovecraft, written during the 1920s and 30s. Giving context to Ancient Alien Theory, Woodward supplies a compelling account of personages and their theories on Mars: the enigmatic Percival Lowell; French astronomer/spiritualist Camille Flammarion; physics genius Nikola Tesla; the German rocket scientist Werner von Braun; the romantic scientist/author Carl Sagan; and late astronomer Tom Van Flandern. Whether scientist or author, all saw Mars as a stepping stone to the stars and the means through which humanity would discern its place in the Cosmos.
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