What's up with Mars? Mars the mysterious. Mars the enigmatic. Since ancient man began tracking the unique red world across the night sky, we have always known there is something special about Mars. The invention of the telescope brought it in to clearer view, and for the first time we could distinguish intriguing markings on the planet's surface that Italian astronomer Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli in 1877 called canali.
American astronomer Percival Lowell, publicized by the popular media of the time, literally (and mistakenly) interpreted Schiaparelli's term with the idea that there were artificial canals on Mars - and the notion that Mars was inhabited by intelligent life became more widespread.
In the decades that followed, science fiction stories and motion pictures explored the fantasy of Mars life, while science produced more powerful telescopes and rocket-propelled probes that revealed an equally awesome reality: a planet of gigantic canyons, dust storms and massive volcanoes that dwarf their Earthly counterparts.