Useful Notes / Mars

You need to live in a dome initially, but over time you could terraform Mars to look like Earth and eventually walk around outside without anything on... So it's a fixer-upper of a planet.

Ah, Mars. Its vivid red soil has entranced the imaginations of humans since it was first identified.

In the late 19th century, astronomer Giovanni Schiapparelli note  observed what appeared to be water channels on Mars. When his writings were translated into English, the Italian word canali was misleadingly translated as canals. For decades afterwards, it was widely believed that these had been built by intelligent aliens. Predictably, Martians featured in a large amount of Science Fiction of the first half of the 20th century.

However, when NASA's Mariner 4 probe flew past Mars in 1965, it was conclusively shown that the canals didn't actually exist. When the Viking probes landed (the Soviets got there first with Mars 3, but the lander was taken out by a dust storm 14.5 seconds after landing), the planet was shown to be lifeless, and the concept of Martians quickly became discredited. More recent observations suggest that Mars may have supported life in the distant past, and some people still cling to hope that life may reside underground, no matter how unlikely it is. However, the red planet has had such a hold on human imagination for so long that it is not going to be lost as a setting any time soon.

Mars regained its prominence in human imagination in 1976 when the Viking 1 probe reached the planet; equipped with more advanced technology, it was able to take a number of impressively high resolution photographs. One of these showed what appears to be a human face. Though quickly debunked by every legitimate authority, it has taken its place alongside the Nazca lines and the Pyramids of Giza in conspiracy lore — especially as one of the photographs from the mission has yet to be declassified. Fictional representations of Mars were changed as well; no longer a destination, but a stepping-stone to greater glories in the form of ancient ruins filled with Lost Technology, waiting for humanity to discover it and thereby leapfrog into the stars. One way or another, that particular argument will remain unsettled until people actually go there unregulated.

More modern stories tend to have Mars being colonized, either as a plot point or part of the Back Story. This isn't an unlikely scenario in real life; it has more of the basic elements needed for life than any other non-Earth world in the solar system and it's quite similar to Earth in several aspects, including day length (24h 39m 35.244s), temperature (-2 to -87 °C, chilly, but overlaps a fair amount with Earth, albeit the coldest parts of Earth), and an atmosphere (although Martian "air" is mostly carbon dioxide and averages about 1/100th of the Earth's pressure). It's also our neighbor along with Venus (which we have yet to keep a probe functioning on for more than a few minutes). For these reasons, Mars is the planet that is most frequently subject to Terraforming. Strangely, regardless of how otherwise Earth-like it may be, Mars tends to retain its distinct red soil. The weak gravity and thin atmosphere also means that dust storms go Up to Eleven on Mars. Every so often, a gigantic dust storm will cover the entire planet in a thick cloud of particles.

Because the Martian day is almost, but not quite, the same length as Earth's day, NASA scientists working on Mars missions reckon the local time there by "sols" (Martial solar days). There's no special name for the Martian year, however.

Despite its many Earthlike qualities, Mars is nowhere near as big as the Earth. It's only half the Earth's diameter, and has only 38% of Earth's surface gravity. The reason for this is that when Jupiter migrated inward towards the Sun, it robbed Mars of material to form with; scientists believe that had Jupiter not drifted inward, Mars would have been the same size as Earth and Venus. The total surface area of Mars is about equal to the land surface area of the Earth (i.e. that small portion of the Earth's surface that isn't under water). Nevertheless, Mars has a canyon (Mariner Canyon) that's far, far larger than Earth's Grand Canyon, and a volcano (Olympus Monsnote ) that's far, far larger than Earth's Mount Everest.note  Unlike Everest or most other large mountains on Earth, Olympus Mons is not steep at all. On the contrary, it rises so gradually that in terms of land area it's roughly the size of France, and a person standing at the base of Olympus Mons would be unable to see its summit because it would actually be over the horizon. Olympus Mons and Mariner Canyon both lie on a region called the Tharsis Bulge, essentially a seven kilometer high (that's before adding the altitude of the volcanoes) bump on the planet's surface caused by a massive upward magma flow beneath that entire area. Olympus Mons is the largest of many volcanoes sitting on the bulge. When these volcanoes were being formed, the pressure caused by the upward magma flow caused a part of the crust to split open, creating the Mariner Canyon. Depending on how the boundary of the Tharsis Bulge is defined, it covers up to twenty-five percent of Mars's surface area.

One unusual feature of Mars is that its northern and southern hemispheres are so dramatically different in geography. The northern hemisphere is largely smooth (and it is theorized that much of it was once covered in water), while the southern hemisphere has very rough, cratered ground that averages 1–3 kilometers higher in elevation. Given the sheer improbability that asteroids and meteors would only strike half of a planet, astronomers have been trying to figure out why this would be the case ever since detailed photographs of Mars first became available. In the last decade, study of the northern hemisphere has indicated that a single massive impact by an object about 2/3rd the size of Earth's moon may have wiped away all smaller craters and other irregularities on the northern hemisphere. The signs of this enormous crater, bigger than the next four largest in the solar system combined and covering some 40% of Mars' surface, were obscured by over a billion years of volcanic eruptions along its rim. It has been argued that the difference in cratering is because Mars once had a shallow ocean covering most of its northern hemisphere. While there is no evidence to disprove this claim, there is also no conclusive evidence for it either.

The most damaging is that Mars has a core that's dead, with no tectonic activity at all, so there's no magnetic field to keep the solar wind from keeping the planet more or less sterile. Although science holds out hope that they will one day discover evidence that life once existed on Mars, there's very little hope they will find life living there now.note  Worse than that, the Martian soil is now known to be extremely rich in hexavalent chromium (known for short as HexChrome), one of the most potent carcinogens known to man. Today, the moons Europa and Enceladus are considered more likely to currently harbor life, both having verified subterranean liquid water and the protection of their respective home planets' magnetic fields. (Europa's surface ice is also a protective barrier from Jupiter's latent radiation.) While in 2015 it was finally verified that there is indeed liquid water on the surface of Mars, the lack of a magnetic field and toxic soil would still be severe obstacles to life.

And as we all know from pop-psychology, men are from there.


Mars has two moons, called Phobos and Deimos. Named after two figures from Greek mythologynote , they are both extremely small; Phobos, the larger of the two, is only ten miles across, and Deimos is half that. Their surface gravity, such as it is, can be measured in micro-g. They're really not much more than irregular rocks, asteroids that were captured by Mars' gravity. Irregular rocks named Fear and Panic.

Although these moons both orbit the planet in the same direction, Phobos is close by and orbits faster than Mars rotates, while Deimos is farther away and orbits slightly slower than Mars rotates. Phobos rises in the west, sets in the east, and rises again in the west 11 hours later. Deimos rises in the east, sets in the west 2.7 [Earth] days later, and rises in the East again 2.7 days after that. What this essentially means is that at some point Deimos is going to fling itself into space (hopefully not in our direction), while Phobos, held together only by its own gravity, is going to disintegrate when tidal forces break it apart as it gets too close.

Mars in fiction:

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  • The God of War, Wonder Woman enemy, used to have his base here, generally because the two shared a name. The idea was lost after Crisis on Infinite Earths, where he got renamed Ares, his Greek counterpart.


  • H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds is one of the best-known examples of a Martian invasion of Earth.
    • Although the action would not actually shift to Mars itself until the unauthorized sequel, Edison's Conquest of Mars by Garrett P. Serviss.
  • Wells' contemporary Kurd Laßwitz in Auf zwei Planeten ("On Two Planets", 1897) portrays Mars (Nu to the Martians) as the densely populated home of a highly advanced civilization capable of interplanetary travel, which it uses in a Benevolent Alien Invasion of Earth. Politically the Martians are organized in a planet-wide federation of 154 states governed by parliamentary democracy.
  • The Sands of Mars, by Arthur C. Clarke, which interestingly is one of the more realistic stories to be set on Mars. Indeed, quite a few of Clarke's novels and short stories involve Mars in some way.
  • The John Carter of Mars series by Edgar Rice Burroughs, who went on to write Tarzan. Unusually for the time period, Burroughs did take into account existing hypotheses on the livability of Mars (or Barsoom), and turned it into a dying world supported by a technological atmosphere plant to keep the air breathable, and a polar ice extraction system to keep the canals filled.
  • Out of the Silent Planet by C. S. Lewis is set mostly on Mars (and on a spaceship bound to or from it). Here the name of the planet is Malacandra.
  • Robert A. Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land. Unknown to many, Stranger is actually a prequel of sorts to RAH's excellent juvenile book called... wait for it... Red Planet. Red Planet was written decades earlier but featured the same Martians seen in Stranger. When it was finally discovered that Mars and other planets in our Solar System are lifeless, Heinlein points out his alternate universes have life on them and one of his characters expresses disappointment in our universe's Solar System. The Animated Adaptation moved this to a planet "New Ares", which wasn't in our solar system but resembled pre-Mariner Mars.
  • Philip K. Dick's Martian Time-Slip (1964).
  • The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451) is more of a collection of short stories connected by an overarching continuity than a real novel. Human characters can breathe on the surface (albeit the air's thinner), communicate telepathically with the Martians, and use typewriters. The book at one point inverts the "life on Mars" concept, where a Martian comments that life on Earth is impossible because there's "too much oxygen."
  • The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut (1959). Except the Martians in this novel are actually human colonists.
  • In H. Beam Piper's Paratime stories, Mars was the original home world of humanity. Their world was dying, 75,000 years ago, so they attempted colonizing Earth — with varying success on different timelines. The maximum probability was the cluster of timelines including what we laughingly call "reality": "...the colonists evidently met with some disaster and lost all memory of their extraterrestrial origin.... As far as they know, they are an indigenous race..."
    • Like many things fictional involving Mars, this is a case of Science Marches On: back when these stories were written, knowledge of human origins and evolution was still vague and fragmentary enough that the exogenesis theory wasn't completely implausible.
    • Piper's short story "Omnilingual" also involves apparently human Martians who died out millennia ago. An archeological expedition in 1996 is exploring the ruins of Martian civilization, and finds the mummified bodies of one of their last communities. "Their power was gone, and they were old and tired, and all around them their world was dying." So they quietly committed suicide.
  • Leigh Brackett's Planetary Romance stories featuring Eric John Stark, The Secret of Sinharat and People of the Talisman, were set on a Burroughs-esque dying Mars suffering from Terran colonization, with a distinct Heroic Fantasy flavor and plenty of Weird Science. Another story, "The Sword of Rihannon," sent its protagonist back in time to ancient Mars, before its oceans dried up. After Mariner she set Stark's further adventures on extrasolar planet Skaith.
  • Otis Adelbert Kline wrote a couple of Planetary Romance stories set on Mars, which has a Barsoom-type civilization full of swashbuckling and Schizo Tech. He does imply that the humans who travel to Mars traveled through time as well as space, and that modern Mars is lifeless.
  • The anthology Old Mars is a homage to the pre-Mariner era stories, with tales by contemporary sci-fi writers.
  • Creation Man And The Messiah, written by Henrik Wergeland in 1829 and re-written in 1845 has the angelic spirit Abiriel, who once ascended to a higher plane of existence. In the opening chapter, he is seen brooding over a newly created, and yet lifeless Earth. Then, he goes on to tell his backstory, implying that he was born in a physical form on "the red planet up yonder". Guess. Which. Planet. The channels were known in the first half of the nineteenth century.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Ice Warriors in Doctor Who were originally from Mars, even after Martian life was discredited (they were originally from the distant past preserved as Alien Popsicles, and later from colonies in outer solar systems).
  • My Favorite Martian, which started a couple of years before the Mariner, and ended shortly afterwards. The 1999 movie obviously was well post-Mariner, but played with its blatant scientific inaccuracy in a funny opening sequence which shows scientists looking at the wrong part of the planet and missing, by about half a mile, a gigantic Martian city.
  • Disney's Mars and Beyond.

  • The second and third series of Journey Into Space involves a mission to, and the attempt to get back from, Mars.

    Western Animation 


    Anime and Manga 
  • Many events in the past, present and future of Gunnm happen on Mars.
  • In Cowboy Bebop, due to the fact that Earth has been devastated by numerous meteor strikes, Mars is the most important planet in the solar system. Along with Venus and many of the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, Mars been terraformed to be suitable for human life.
  • Martian Successor Nadesico has human colonies on Mars. For about five minutes. Its backstory also features an ancient Martian civilization, from whose ruins the humans acquired most of the show's Applied Phlebotinum.
  • The manga ARIA is set on Mars a hundred and fifty years after terraforming. Surprisingly, no one lives under domes and most of the planet is covered in water that was intentionally pumped from underground, but since they got a lot more than they had planned on. Mars has been renamed Aqua, Earth is now called Manhome, and the story happens in the city of Neo-Venizia, recreated from the remains of the lost (ironically from rising global ocean levels) city of Venice.
  • Another watery Mars can be seen in a game and anime Mars Daybreak, which, interestingly, is set in the same universe with the Gunparade March series.
  • Mars plays a major role in Gundam F90: the remnants of Neo-Zeon from Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack retreated there, and thirty years later have built a giant railcannon for the purpose of destroying Earth.
    • The strange thing is that this is the only UC Gundam work it appears in. This may be due to the aborted Turn A Space series plan, which eventually became Turn A Gundam, which was meant to serve as a Distant Finale not only to all of Gundam, but Tomino's other Humongous Mecha anime as well. This would have included Daitarn 3, in which Mars is the home of a race of evil cyborgs known as the Meganoids. Not exactly the friendliest place in the Solar System.
      • But then, no Gundam series before Mobile Suit Gundam Ironblooded Orphans really ever ventured away from the Earth Sphere. F90 and Crossbone series are a little known spinoffs, and any other series paid the Outer System only a mention at best. Even Zeta Gundam, which featured a Jovian, Paptimus Scirocco, still have him visit the Earth Sphere.
    • Mars gets a couple of mentions in Gundam Wing, as Relena makes terraformation her pet project after becoming Vice Foreign Minister near the end of the series. The sequel novel Frozen Teardrop gives Mars a much larger role: the planet is terraformed a couple of decades after the anime ended thanks to miraculous algae from Jupiter's moon Europa, leading Zechs Merquise to become the first President of the Martian Federation, and war clouds may be stirring between the red planet and Earth.
    • Mars also plays a prominent role in some of the Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Astray spinoffs, one of which features a Gundam that turns into a tripod.
    • The Red Planet is the home of the series villains in Mobile Suit Gundam AGE. It was revealed that the Unknown Enemy are Martian colonists abandoned by the Earth Federation, and because of what it thinks to be betrayal, have initiated a revenge by attacking colonies in the Earth's orbit. However, they stay mainly in a space colony in Martian orbit due to the botched terraforming.
    • Mars now takes a central stage in Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans. Mars has been divided into four colonies by four Earth blocs, and the people on Mars want independence. It is also the first animated series with a Mars-born protagonist, as well as the series starting on the Martian surface itself.
  • Whenever asked, Chao Lingshen of Mahou Sensei Negima! would claim that she was from Mars. Thanks to events in chapter 257, this no longer seems so random with the confirmation of Mundus Magicus being located on Mars itself.
    • ...sort of. Mundus Magicus is essentially "out of phase" with Mars. It occupies the same area and the geographic features more or less line up, but it's not "really" Mars. Just layered on top of it.
    • Near the end of the manga, Negi was leading a plan to terraform the planet to keep Mundus Magicus stable. A 130-year Time Skip shows that the plan succeeded.
  • The first several episodes of Ninja Senshi Tobikage are set on Mars, which has been made a prison colony.
  • The backstory of Aldnoah.Zero goes that Captain Eugene Cerner of the Apollo 17 mission to the Moon found an alien teleportation portal that led to Mars. A survey team that traveled through the Hypergate found the remnants of an ancient civilization there, including alien technology they called "Aldnoah." With the power of Aldnoah, a Terraforming process began and a Martian colony was established. But by 1985, a movement for independence resulted in the founding of the Holy Vers Empire on Mars, eventually leading to a devastating war between Earth and Mars that resulted in the Hypergate's destruction and the Heaven's Fall disaster.
  • Terra For MARS is about a Terraforming process on Mars using genetically engineered cockroaches. It ends up going horribly wrong.

  • The Martian Manhunter in The DCU. Originally appeared pre-Mariner, retconned post-Mariner to have been pulled forward in time from a Martian civilization that was now long-dead.
  • ABC Warriors is mostly set on Mars. complete with Martians who resent human colonization. The titular robots spent a long time fighting on the side of Earth, but eventually ended that arc by forcing the president of Earth to become half-Martian. In the current stories, the primary inhabitants of Mars seem to be robots, though public restrooms have separate stalls for men, women, and Martians.
  • In Watchmen, Mars is where Doctor Manhattan retreats in chapter 4, after being accused of causing his former colleagues and his ex-girlfriend to contract cancer. After reflecting there on his past, present and future, he teleports Laurie to the planet so she can make an argument for his intervention in human affairs. The Galle Crater is used both in the comic and the film in keeping with the story's recurring Smiley motif.

  • Most of the original Total Recall takes place there.
    • Very loosely based on the Philip K. Dick's short story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale.
  • Mars Attacks! is a rare modern film about a Martian invasion, being essentially an homage to '50s sci-fi.
  • The year 2000 saw Dueling Movies Mission to Mars and Red Planet.
  • Ghosts of Mars.
  • Mars was the astronauts' planned destination in Capricorn One.
  • John Carter, being based on Edgar Rice Burroughs' decidedly pre-Mariner Barsoom series, had to explain why Mars had breathable air and a living civilization. The (brief) answer was that we primitive, backward humans are ignorant of the real conditions on the planet. Either that, or the planet became an uninhabitable wasteland some time between Victorian England and the Mariner missions.
  • The Last Days on Mars is basically the Doctor Who episode "The Waters of Mars" minus the Doctor, plus half an hour and Liev Schreiber.
  • The Martian.

  • Larry Niven's Known Space books and stories feature native Martians; to be fair, the first few stories were published just before the Mariner landings. They eventually get killed off by the Knight Templar Brennan, who has been mutated into a superintelligent being with inhuman motivations. However, The Ringworld Engineers has some surviving on the Ringworld's Map of Mars. Niven's Martians swim through sand and have alien biochemistry not based on water.
    • The lack of our discovering them is later justified by their living their entire lives underneath the sand (the details of the sand is of course another matter entirely). In-story, they weren't discovered until the 2100s, when a colony was mysteriously found dead from spear damage... on a planet thought uninhabited until then.
    • In the introduction to the Tales of Known Space anthology, Niven notes that Science was Marching On while he was writing:
    You may feel that Mars itself is changing as you read through the book. Right you are. [...] If the space probes keep redesigning our planets, what can we do but write new stories?
  • S.M. Stirling's The Lords of Creation reconstructs the pre-Mariner image of Mars, with scientists making discovery after discovery through the early part of the twentieth century that indicate both Mars and Venus are life-bearing worlds. The Viking lander (in 1962!) finds a classic decadent canal-based near-human civilization, and later Earth explorers/ambassadors discover that Precursors are responsible for terraforming Mars and Venus with ecologies transplanted from Earth.
  • As part of Ben Bova's Grand Tour series, he wrote a novel whose entire title is just ... Mars. It's about the first manned mission to Mars, a joint international venture consisting of astronauts straight out of a Jackie Collins novel. He eventually wrote two sequels, Return to Mars and Mars Life.
  • Ian McDonald's Desolation Road and Ares Express are set on a far-future terraformed Mars. His treatment of Mars combines hard science and magic realism.
  • In Greg Bear's Moving Mars, scientists living in a Martian colony discover how to turn Bell's Discontinuity (a theory from quantum mechanics) into a long-range weapon of mass destruction.
  • Harry Turtledove's novel A World of Difference is a response to the Viking discoveries by setting the story in an Alternate History universe where instead of Mars, there is an Earth-sized planet in its place called Minerva. As the preface states:
    Mars is boring. Turns out it's too damn small. But what if it weren't...?
  • The novel Terminal World and the Revelation Space short story The Great Wall of Mars by Alastair Reynolds.
  • Stephen Baxter's Alternate History novel Voyage, in which the first manned mission to Mars is launched in the mid 1980s, using expanded and improved Apollo programme era hardware.
  • In Dan Simmons' Hyperion Cantos, Mars is home to the Palestinians; shortly after winning independence from Israel, they got caught in the crossfire of a regional nuclear war, and, finding their land uninhabitable, they moved to Mars. Additionally, FORCE, the Hegemony's military, was based here. As for characters, Col. Kassad is a Palestinian from Mars, as well as a FORCE officer.
  • One Day On Mars, essentially 24 in THE FUTURE!, takes place here. (Duh.) It's been colonized long enough for people to have a particular phenotype (tall, pale, black-haired).
  • Andy Weir's The Martian features Mark Watney, a stranded astronaut on Mars, trying to survive for the four years before the next mission arrives on contemporary early 21st century technology.
  • In the science fiction novel Nation of the Third Eye by K.K. Savage, 22nd century Mars is a poor a thinly populated planet. One of the main characters is from the Red Colony on Mars, which was founded by Russians. There are also monasteries in remote locations on Mars.
  • River of Dust by Alexander Jablokov posits that humans tried to terraform Mars but met with no success, but that a the colonists persisted in creating an enclosed civilization there in the harsh Martian conditions.
  • Kim Stanley Robinson's trilogy, Red/Green/Blue Mars, covering the terraforming of the planet over more than two hundred years. The three novels are named in allusion to key steps in the project: Red (natural) -> Green (life) -> Blue (open water).
  • The Russian collaborative novel The Road to Mars involves a multinational crew of the Ares spacecraft on its way to the red planet. In a twist, no one expected this particular crew to go. The crew (all male) consists of two Russians, two Americans (one of them black), an Italian, and a Frenchman, thus representing three power blocs and space agencies (Russia/Roscosmos, US/NASA, and EU/ESA, respectively). China is left out and chooses to send their own mission to Mars in the form of a two-man crew on the poorly-tested Millennium Boat. Part of the novel involves a race between the two craft, as both crews have orders to be the first to get there, although, in private, both commanders would gladly give up the chance to be first in favor of cooperation to make sure everyone makes it back. During the flight, strange things are happening aboard the Ares, which appear to be connected with something found on the planet by earlier probes.
  • In Harry Harrison's The Stainless Steel Rat series, it's revealed that humanity spread through the galaxy from Mars, having terraformed it and relocated there just before Earth became nearly uninhabitable. Not everyone made it to Mars, and one novel involves the time-traveling protagonist trying to help the Martian colonists prevent a nuclear attack on their planet from mutated humans on Earth. Earth ends up destroyed by its own nukes, and Mars serves as humanity's new launchpoint.
  • Although its core plot takes place entirely on Earth, Mars is important in the setting of Black Man as the first effort of human civilization spreading outside of the Earth, and as a dumping ground for the now-ostracized genetically enhanced humans once created to wage war but now finding themselves becoming criminals to sate their bloodlust. The book discusses both terraforming efforts on Mars (along with bizarre water-based PTSD any "Martians" get when they return to Earth) and in stark defiance of Subspace Ansible the long turnaround for messages sent to and from Mars is used as a plot point several times.
  • In Arrivals from the Dark, we get to see snapshots of Mars over the centuries of human space exploration, although the planet is far from the main focus of the series. In the first novel, the human presence on Mars consists of a single station manned by a dozen people at most as well as the base for Earth's Second Fleet. Over the next several centuries, thanks to the reverse-engineering of Faata technology, space travel gets easier, and large-scale settlement becomes an option. Despite humanity obtaining FTL capability and discovering a number of habitable extrasolar planets, Mars is still seen as a viable site for terraforming. However, it's stated that part of the reason is because it serves as a proving ground for experimental terraforming techniques that are later employed on other arid worlds (of which there are a lot more than Earth-like planets). By the fifth novel, taking place two and a half centuries later, Mars has a sizable population, the largest in the Solar System besides Earth's, and the air is breathable, if a little rarefied. There is even a small ocean, several seas, and a number of rivers. The heat and light are maintained via the use of artificial "suns" in orbit, which appear to be large solar reflectors. Several areas are designated as preserves and still feature the native Martian landscapes, although it's not uncommon to see a highway going through one (despite most Martians preferring to use Flying Cars for transportation).

    Live-Action TV 
  • There was an ABC miniseries of The Martian Chronicles that aired in 1980. It starred, among others, Rock Hudson, Darren Mc Gavin, Bernadette Peters, and Roddy McDowall. Richard Matheson wrote the script, which was significantly different from Ray Bradbury's novel.
  • Doctor Who:
  • In Defying Gravity, Maddux Donner is haunted by his previous mission to Mars, when a storm forced him to abandon two crew members (including his Love Interest) in order to allow the other three to survive. The current mission involves a journey across the Solar System with landings on several planets, including Mars. Unfortunately, the show was cancelled before they made it to Mars, but Word of God is that they would have found the two crew members alive and well.
  • In the Star Trek franchise, Mars has been colonized by Earth, with the most prominent example being Utopia Planitia. (Expanded Universe works include other colonies, like Bradbury City.) Mars also has extensive starship construction facilities in orbit, which built the starships Enterprise-D and Voyager.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Warhammer 40,000, Mars is the homeworld of the Adeptus Mechanicus and the prison of the Void Dragon, at least during the Horus Heresy and prior.

  • Take On Mars allows gamers to explore Mars based on completely up to date data. They can also explore with the current probes like Curiosity, or drive around in a weaponized SUV.
  • Episode 1 of the first Commander Keen game was set on Mars.
  • The central conflict in Zone of the Enders is between The Federation and a rebel army on Mars. All except the first game take place on Mars.
  • Red Faction is another video game about a Martian colonial revolution.
  • Destiny has a version of Mars in it that has been terraformed by the Traveler, a benevolent Eldritch Abomination. According to the game's lore, this was where the Traveler was discovered after it terraformed Venus and Mercury. The planet keeps its red soil, but there are plants and trees growing in it, along with several cities and alien outposts.
  • Doom 3 and the original Doom take place on Mars and its moons respectively. Which, miraculously, all seem to have Earth-normal surface gravity as established by the rate at which your character falls when stepping off a high place. (Unless your Space Marine is really two centimeters tall.)
    • Justifiable in the original Doom, as Deimos is hovering over hell.
  • In Mass Effect, humans don't reach Mars until the 22nd century, and take another four decades to unlock its secrets—a base left by Ancient Astronauts filled with their technology. Immediately afterward they explode across the stars, becoming a galactic power just four decades after the discovery. The codex notes that the advent of easy space travel has caused Mars to go from humanity's first prospect at relatively easy colonization to a quaint backwater, far overshadowed by planets in other star systems. The main characters don't visit it till the beginning of Mass Effect 3. The base there is under attack, and most of the people there are already dead.
  • UFO Afterlight series takes place entirely on Mars, as human colonists try to terraform it. Then they're attacked by the remnants of an old Martian Civilization. Then by alien invaders. Then more alien invaders. Then the Martians come back. And over the course of the game, the red planet slowly turns green.
  • The second and last game in the Ultima Worlds sub-series was titled Martian Dreams. Despite all the knowledge that we had about Mars at the time the game was created, the game is set on an extremely fictionalized version of the Red Planet. For one thing, you don't need a space suit to breathe. For another, you can get there in a ship that's launched like a bullet from the Earth. And finally, the resident plant life is desperately trying to kill you. However, the game is set in the late 19th century, with the common misconceptions of the time being true.
  • The final part of Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders is set on Mars and features the "Face on Mars", which, alongside with many Earth monuments (Stonehenge, the Aztec and Egyptian pyramids, etc.) was apparently made by the Caponians, the titular aliens.
  • Mars is one of the three real planets (the other two being Earth and Venus) that appeared in SimEarth's scenario mode, which the player had to terraform and colonize.
  • The titular colony ship UESC Marathon is actually the moon Deimos, having been hollowed out and turned into a multi-generationational starship. Mars itself has been colonized but become a place of poverty, with the Marathon becoming a symbol of the UESC's neglect since the ship is going to be used to flee Mars rather than preserve it.
  • In Waking Mars, life has been discovered on Mars deep within the caves below the surface. It is the job of Liang to research these new lifeforms and grow the ecosystem to a state of harmony. Later on in the game it is discovered that Mars was inhabited by sentient beings which left clues to the puzzle of Mars's big secret. Later you meet them personally and you wouldn't know they were sentient by just looking at them. They appear to be levitating tangled balls of... stuff which can only communicate via radio-sent images.
  • In Escape Velocity Nova, Mars is a visitable planet. Evidently, some time before the game's setting, humanity tried to Terraform it and failed miserably, leaving it a relative backwater — the most important stellar object in Sol aside from Earth (and its ring) is Europa, mostly due to the Fed military base there.
  • Both Mars: War Logs and it's follow-up The Technomancer take place on Mars 200 years after it was colonized by humanity and 70 after it was completely cut off from the rest of civilization due to a Polar flip.
  • The planet Mars is a recurring character in The Impossible Quiz series, where he first appears in Question 92 singing "What is the Light?" by Flaming Lips.

  • In A Miracle of Science, the human colonists on Mars have become much more advanced than elsewhere in the solar system, forming a kind of Hive Mind and allowing them access to much greater technology.
  • In Quantum Vibe, Mars is called Huǒxīng, as it is largely ruled by the Chinese.
  • The Stormrunners takes places 3.5 billion years ago, when Mars kinda resembles the pre-Mariner version, canals and all, but its ecology has been wrecked by a centuries-long war against invaders from who-knows-where. Then somehow a couple of time-displaced humans crash land there to complicate things.
  • Mare Internum takes place during the early days of Mars's colonization, with pretty hard science and a pretty realistic view of Mars. Then life and the survivors of an ancient advanced civilization are discovered beneath the surface.
  • In Nebula, the solar system is shown as a group of Anthropomorphic Personifications, and Mars is a reclusive Jerk with a Heart of Gold who's Vitriolic Best Buds with his far more friendly and idealistic neighbor, Earth. He's also the Only Sane Man of the group.

    Web Originals 
  • Mars held an important position in the Orion's Arm universe from the nanoswarms through the first federation era, around one or two thousand years. It's still the most populated and influential planet in Solsys by the setting's present day, though the system itself is fairly inconsequential.
  • Played with in Genius: The Transgression, where the Martian Empire came into existence and began invading Earth the moment the Viking probe landed and found Mars uninhabited. That version of Mars is a Bardo, populated by Manes who insist on continuing to exist despite the fact that they shouldn't.
  • In Bravest Warriors, Mars is the home to many intergalactic species and humans, including the Warriors themselves.

    Western Animation 
  • Futurama:
    • After the first human (Phillip J. Fry the second) set foot on it in the twenty-first century, Mars has been terraformed, first in order to facilitate the construction of Mars University, then later by farmers and ranchers. There are also jungles, which feature birds, monkeys, tigers and elephants, in lieu of the ones on Earth being long gone. And there's the massive gambling city Mars Vegas. In a Radariffic note, Mars' foliage also contains a great many marijuana plants.
    • It also had native Martians, in an episode which parodied westerns. They live in a reservation located under the Great Stone Face of Mars, and which apparently goes through the entire planet, coming out on the "Great Stone Ass of Mars". Once it turns out they sold the planet for a massive diamond, they decide to just leave and buy a new planet.
  • The Filmation cartoon My Favorite Martians, circa 1970.
  • Invader Zim featured a lost Martian civilization who were wiped out because they put all their efforts into turning the planet into a ship like the original version of Cyberman with Mondas.
    Zim: Why would you do that?
    Martian hologram: Because it was cool.
  • In the 80's animated series Star Com, Mars was long ago the home to a vanished advanced civilization, and archaeologists are diligently exploring any buried ruins they can find.

    Real Life 
  • A Real Life example of getting Mars wrong: Former US Vice President Dan Quayle, who was not known for his intelligent remarks (in fact, he was basically known solely for his mangling of the English language), once famously declared, "Mars is essentially in the same orbit [as Earth]. [...] Mars is somewhat the same distance from the Sun, which is very important. We have seen pictures where there are canals, we believe, and water. If there is water, that means there is oxygen. If oxygen, that means we can breathe."
  • Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, while touring JPL in 2005, asked if the Mars Pathfinder probe could see the flag planted by the Apollo 11 astronauts. On the Moon. (Perhaps she was asking about the probe's deep-space telescope capabilities, or perhaps she's just an idiot.)

Alternative Title(s): The Red Planet