The mysteries of the Martian landscape have long been part of the human imagination. With the development of more sophisticated telescopes, this only grew as the complex geography of Mars was mistaken for canals built by an alien race. These theories about Mars sparked the creativity of many authors and through the years many novels have been written describing Mars and its potential inhabitants. As scientists gather more data about Mars, authors have adapted their fictional Martians to fit our modern viewpoint.
Science fiction novels can be a great way of combining literary skills with science. Students can listen to or read excerpts from science fiction novels describing organisms that live on Mars. Students then draw their interpretations of those organisms and decide whether that life form could survive based on our knowledge of Mars. Class discussion can be on how the environmental conditions of Mars act as constraints for living organisms and how it compares to life on Earth. This activity can be expanded to include comparing the geology, weather, and the types of technologies. NASA’s Mars Exploration website provides a list of facts about the Martian environment including temperature, gravity, and composition of the atmosphere. Another resource is the Solar System Exploration program’s basic facts on Mars. A list of potential science fiction novels is listed below.
Science Fiction Stories on Mars:
The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells (1897)
Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis (1938)
Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury (1950)
Red Planet by Robert Heinlen (1949)
Mars by Ben Bova (1993)
The Martians by Kim Stanley Robinson (1999)
The Martian by Andy Weir (2011)
Last Day on Mars by Kevin Emerson (2017)
Builds towards MS-LS2-1: Organisms, and populations of organisms, are dependent on their environmental interactions both with other living things and with nonliving factors.