The Exploration of Mars: Seaching for the Cosmic Origins of Life
Will Mars provide a clue to how life develops? A century ago, several prominent astronomers convinced themselves that Mars supported a great canal-building civilization. This theory shaped our image of the planet until the 1950s. In July 1996, a NASA team announced the discovery of fossilized traces of microbial life in a meteorite from Mars, resulting in plans for an accelerated schedule of probe missions to the planet, including a landing on the Martian surface, the first in 21 years, and a global mapping mission able to beam back full color detailed images of the planet.