Invasion From Mars?



When H G Wells in 1898 wrote his famous novel "The War of the Worlds"  the general public was quite susceptible for such an eventuality. A couple of decades earlier it had become possible to point powerful telescopes towards the planet Mars and some believed they saw  evidence of artificial constructions in the form of canals. Percival Lowell soon became the foremost proponent for the existence of an advanced Martian civilisation. He was also a skilled communicator and his views influenced the general public's attitude towards extraterrestrials  via contemporary press media.

In 1938 Orson Wells succeeded in frightening large parts of the US population in a radio broadcasted dramatisation of  "The War of the Worlds". He adjusted Wells story a little, the first Martian spacecrafts in his play landed at Grover's Mill in New Jersey on the US east coast. Today there is a memorial (see above, right) commemorating this fictitious invasion.  

In the story, the Martians are finally defeated by terrestrial bacteria, to which they had no defence. Interestingly enough, in much more modern times there have been speculations about bacteria from Mars "invading" Earth. In 1984 a meteorite was found in Antarctica which probably arrived at Earth about 13000 years ago after being ripped off the Martian surface about 15 million years back. In 1996 a report was published with an analysis of the meteorite, among other things an image allegedly showing a bacterialike organism (see above, left). This result has, however, subsequently been heavily criticised. The question whether life on Mars exists or have existed is still open, but further Martian exploration in the near future should give a definitive answer.