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Useful Notes / Mars

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  • Diameter: 6,779 km
  • Mass: 0.107 of Earth
  • Density: 3.9335 g/cm³
  • Surface Gravity: 0.38 g
  • Semi-major Axis: 1.52 AU
  • Orbital Period: 686 Days (1.88 Years)
  • Rotational Period: 24 hours, 39 minutes
  • Axial Tilt: 25.19°
  • Average Surface Temperature: -63° C
  • Atmospheric Pressure: 0.006 atm
  • Notable Features: Olympus Mons, Valles Marineris, Hellas Planitia
  • Number of Moons: 2
  • Number of Total Missions: 48

"This is Mars. Not the home of some fantastic civilization. A lonely desert, populated by rocks."
Patrick Stewart, The Planets

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

Historically while the white areas seen on Mars's poles with a telescope were correctly identified as polar caps of water ice first and carbon dioxide plus water ices later, and as happened with the lunar "maria" that were thought at first to be actual seas of water instead of plains of solidified lava, the dark spots ("albedo features") that can be seen in Mars' surface with an Earth-based telescope as in the image to the right were considered actual seas, astronomers creating in such way a nomenclature that while today obsolete is still used by amateur astronomers and that uses names drawn from the myths, history and geography of classical antiquity; dark features were named after ancient seas and rivers, light areas after islands and legendary landsnote . 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 (the actual Italian word for "canals" is "canale", with an "e"). For decades afterwards, it was widely believed that these had been built by intelligent aliens in order to carry water from the polar caps to the drier equatorial regions. Predictably, Martians featured in a large amount of Science Fiction in the first half of the 20th century. Later on, when it was clear Mars lacks large bodies of liquid water, it was thought such features were areas of vegetation changing its extension as Martian seasons progressed.

However, when NASA's Mariner 4 probe flew past Mars in 1965, it was conclusively shown that the canals didn't actually exist and that the dark features were as proposed by Carl Sagan just the result of dust being blown by the winds of Mars exposing a dark substrate. 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 mean 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 its surface gravity is only 0.38 g (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 underwater). Nevertheless, Mars has a canyon system (Valles Marineris) 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 Valles Marineris. 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 very little tectonic activity,note  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).note  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. However, despite the odds, there is a chance extremophiles live inside Mars. After all, life has been found to thrive inside of otherwise lethal conditions such as tar pits, geothermal pools, and geothermal vents at the bottom of the ocean.

Although Mars doesn't have nearly as substantial an atmosphere as Earth (let alone Venus, or the gas giants), it has enough of one that the reduced level of sunlight relative to Earth (40%)note  that reaches Mars is able to diffuse in the sky (the large amounts of dust in the atmosphere aid immensely in this process). Most observers describe the daylight sky as being "butterscotch" or similar in color. Amusingly, because of the way sunlight is refracted, at sunrise and sunset the sky around the sun is more bluish, the opposite of the reddish hue the sky around a rising or setting sun takes on in our own atmosphere. The Martian night sky resembles our own in many ways, with the exception of two tiny moons rather than one large one (see below), and, of course, the presence of nearby Earth and its Moon, though with the naked eye, they are not always discernable as two distinct objects. Even at their brightest, both Earth (-2.5) and the Moon (+0.9) are dimmer than Venus (-3.2) as seen from Mars, making it the brightest planet as seen from all three of the other inner planets.

And as we all know from pop psychology, men are from there. Not the kind of place to raise your kids.

Top Left: Phobos. Bottom Right: Deimos.
Mars has two moons, called Phobos and Deimos. They were discovered in 1877, later than all the major moons of all the outer planets, and are named after two figures from Greek mythology.note  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.note  Irregular rocks named Fear and Panic. Just don't try to set up a teleportation experiment between the two.

Although these moons both orbit the planet in the same direction, Phobos is close by (nearer than any other known moon to its parent planet, in fact) 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 has been visited by:

  • Mariner 4 (NASA, flyby, launched 1964, flew by Mars 1965): First images taken of Mars.
  • Mariners 6 and 7 (NASA, flybys, 1965)
  • Mariner 9 (NASA, orbiter, 1971-1972): First probe to orbit another planet.
  • Mars 2 (USSR, orbiter/lander/rover, 1971–72): Lander and rover failed, but became the first manmade objects to reach the Martian surface.
  • Mars 3 (USSR, orbiter/lander/rover, 1971–72): Contact with lander lost 110 seconds after landing.
  • Mars 5 (USSR, orbiter, launched 1973, orbited 1974)
  • Mars 6 and 7 (USSR, flybys/landers, launched 1973, arrived 1974): Mars 6 lander returned atmospheric data but contact was lost before landing. Mars 7 lander missed Mars entirely.
  • Viking program (NASA, orbiters/landers, launched 1975, arrived at Mars 1976)
    • Viking 1 (orbiter active 1976-1980, lander active 1976–1982)
    • Viking 2 (orbiter active 1976–78, lander active 1976–1980)
  • Phobos 2 (USSR, orbiter, launched 1988, active 1989): Attempted mission to Phobos. Contact lost shortly before Phobos approach phase.
  • Mars Pathfinder (NASA, lander, launched 1996, active 1997)
    • Sojourner (rover, active 1997): Landed with Pathfinder. First successful Mars rover.
  • Mars Global Surveyor (NASA, orbiter, launched 1996, active 1997–2006)
  • 2001 Mars Odyssey (NASA, orbiter, 2001–present): Yes, it's named after 2001: A Space Odyssey.
  • Mars Express (ESA, orbiter, 2003–present)
    • Beagle 2 (UK National Space Centre, lander, landed 2003): Accompanied Mars Express. Contact was lost after landing.note 
  • Mars Exploration Rovers (NASA, rovers, launched 2003)
    • Spirit (active 2004–2010)
    • Opportunity (active 2004–2018)
  • Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (NASA, orbiter, launched 2005, active 2006–present): Helped pick landing spots for future NASA landers and rovers.
  • Phoenix (NASA, lander, launched 2007, active 2008)
  • Curiosity (NASA, rover, launched 2011, active 2012–present)
  • Mars Orbiter Mission/Mangalyaan (ISRO, orbiter, launched 2013, active 2014–2022)
  • MAVEN (NASA, orbiter, launched 2013, active 2014–present)
  • ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (ESA/Roscosmos, orbiter, launched 2016, active 2016–present)
    • Schiaparelli EDM (ESA/Roscosmos, lander, deployed 2016): Carried with ExoMars Orbiter. Crash-landed and destroyed.
  • InSight (NASA, lander, launched 2018, active 2018–2022)
    • Mars Cube One/MarCO (NASA, two nanospacecraft orbiters, active 2018–2019): Designed to help relay signals from InSight. Nicknamed WALL-E and EVE.
  • Hope (Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, orbiter, launched 2020, active 2021–present)
  • Tianwen-1 (CNSA, orbiter/lander, launched 2020, orbiter active 2021–present): Lander reached end of designed lifespan after successful soft landing in 2021.
    • Zhurong (rover, active 2021–2022): Deployed by Tianwen-1.
  • Perseverance (NASA, rover, launched 2020, active 2021–present): Caching samples for eventual joint NASA-ESA sample return mission.
    • Ingenuity (NASA, rotorcraft, active 2021–2024): Carried by Perseverance. First aircraft to take off on another planet.

Mars in tropes:

Mars in fiction:

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    Comic Books 


  • One of the earliest "travel to Mars" stories comes from The Divine Comedy, where the author is guided through the Heavenly Paradise by his former lover. On the planet Mars, the author encounters the warriors and martyrs who died to bring the justice and love of God to the world.
  • H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds (1898) 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.
  • The Ship That Sailed to Mars is an early (1923) work of Science Fantasy that follows the adventures of a human and his fairy companions, who construct and crew a magically endowed sailing ship that takes them from Earth to Mars. They find the red planet to have an Earth-like climate (with a breathable atmosphere, liquid water, and Earth-like weather patterns) and a thriving population of fairyfolk, mermaids, and other fantastic creatures. The capital Martian Fairy City is built on a network of glorious canals.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who: The Ice Warriors 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).
  • Disney's Mars and Beyond.
  • 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 that shows scientists looking at the wrong part of the planet and missing, by about half a mile, a gigantic Martian city.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959) episodes "People Are Alike All Over", "Mr. Dingle, the Strong" and "Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?" all depict different Martian races. In the first, they are Human Aliens. In the second, they have two heads. In the third, they have three arms. Furthermore, in "The Fugitive", the shapeshifter Ben turns into a Martian, a fanged creature with antennae and large eyes, while playing a game with children.

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

    Tabletop Games 
  • Although the RPG supplement GURPS Mars is full of modern information on the planet (see under Post-Mariner/Viking below), two of the example settings in the book — the '50s-SF-style "Superscience Mars" and the pulpy "Dying Mars" — are stuffed full of pre-Mariner motifs, including the mandatory canals.

    Video Games 


    Anime and Manga 
  • Many events in the past, present and future of Battle Angel Alita 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 ∀ 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 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 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 Negima! Magister Negi Magi 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.
  • TerraforMARS is about a terraforming process on Mars using genetically engineered cockroaches. It ends up going horribly wrong.

    Comic Books 
  • 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.
  • Vol. 2, issue 1 of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen takes place there. Where else can you see John Carter of Mars and Gullivar of Mars teaming up with Sorns to take down H.G. Wells' tripod-invaders? And in Vol. 4 on we learn it's the home of superhero Marsman, and they've also got the automated murder-house from Usher II.
  • The Legend of Wonder Woman (2016): Ares used to have a base/home on Mars, but as Tomas Byde discovers when he goes to confront the fading god it has been long abandoned and what is left of it lies in ruin. It is hinted that this is a reflection of the way the Olympians are dying and losing their power.
  • Trish Trash: Rollergirl of Mars: The comic's main setting is on Planet Mars.


  • Larry Niven's Known Space books and stories feature native Martians; to be fair, the first few stories were published just before the Mariner flybys. They eventually get killed off in Protector 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 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, some of the crewmembers on both 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 
  • In Babylon 5, Mars is an Earth colony which becomes an independent state in 2262. It is in the process of being terraformed.
  • 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.
  • Doctor Who:
  • 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.
  • 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, Defiant, and Voyager. Star Trek: Enterprise established a Terraforming project in the 22nd century, which as of 2155 has thickened the air enough to make pressurized space suits unnecessary (though oxygen and heating gear is still needed). Sadly, by the time of Star Trek: Picard, synthetic laborers (non-sentient androids) violently rebel and destroy the Utopia Planitia shipyards and the Martian colonies, killing over 90,000 people and rendering Mars uninhabitable for more than a decade.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • In one Calvin and Hobbes story arc, the two of them travel to Mars in Calvin's red wagon (it's ambiguous whether it was all in Calvin's imagination). This provided the title and cover art to one of the books, Weirdos From Another Planet.
  • Samantha's ultimate goal in life in Safe Havens was to go to Mars. She eventually gets her wish commanding the first mission to Mars and finds out it's sentient and wants to destroy humanity. She (and Jenny) negotiate with Mars and agree to terraform it in exchange for sparing humanity. This, however, causes countries and real estate developers to plan to come to Mars to claim land for themselves, and refuse to recognize Mars's sentience so Samantha and Dave take the drastic measure of adopting Mars, ultimately causing Mars to Heel–Face Turn and save humanity from a comet threatening to destroy Earth. The dodos Paul and Mary decide to stay on Mars permanently. Also, Samantha and Dave's daughter Maria was born on Mars, technically making her a Martian.

  • The Twilight Histories episode Hannibal One is set in a world where Carthage won the Punic Wars and crushed Rome. 1000 years later, Carthage has launched its first mission of colonization to Mars. You have been sent to explore this fledgling colony.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Blue Planet's Mars is a cold and poisonous backwater, with a hereditary aristocracy, income disparity on par with late-20th-century America (still better than Earth's), and the Pavonis Skyhook making it easy to leave. Since the plans to terraform it further fell apart, it's also still the Red Planet. Though possibly not for long, if Lavender Organics goes forward with its plan to lower the Martian albedo...
  • In Eclipse Phase, Mars is settled and in the early stages of terraforming — just as well for humanity, given that Earth is no longer habitable.
  • The RPG supplement GURPS Mars is a comprehensive guide to what's known about Mars, and past fictional treatments of the planet; GMs can use it when building their own games, or set campaigns in the various sample versions of Mars (Domed, Terraformed, Superscience, or Dying), each of which use modern maps of the planet in different ways.
  • The theme of the board game Terraforming Mars is clear from the title. Players control rival corporations, seeking PR glory and profit from working on the project.
  • In Transhuman Space, Martian terraforming is well under way, with associated controversies and political complications, and Mars is a viable setting for campaigns. The speed of the terraforming process is perhaps one of the most optimistic, least realistic aspects of the setting design.
  • 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 before. The planet is surrounded by a massive orbital ring filled with shipyards, which produce the bulk of the Imperium's ships.

    Video Games 
  • 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.
  • Doom³ 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 the universe of Halo, Mars has been colonized and terraformed for centuries. Presently, it's the headquarters of the Orbital Drop Shock-Troopers, and orbiting it are the UNSC's main shipyards.
  • In Stellaris, Marsnote  is the only planet in the game to always spawn as a guaranteed terraforming candidate, and a decently sized one, to boot. This provides a quite noticeable advantage to any empire that hails from Sol (usually humans, natch), and naturally makes the Sol system the most popular of the unique starting systems even for non-human species.
  • Surviving Mars allows the player to create a colony on Mars. First, you send rockets with drones and rovers, set up systems to produce steady sources of minerals, energy, water, and air, then build domes with buildings inside, and finally, bring colonists and look for their needs. All while you take care against dust storms, falling meteors, and cold waves.

  • 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, yet still retaining their individuality. The atmosphere is now breathable, and the colonists are preparing to restart the planet's tectonic activity, to make the terraformation self-sustaining. One of the protagonists is a Martian psychiatrist.
  • In Quantum Vibe, Mars is called Huǒxīng, as it is largely ruled by the Chinese.
  • The Stormrunners takes place 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 Original 
  • In Episode 20 of World's Greatest Adventures, we meet Warlord Cassius, Ruler of the Tharsis Quadrangle, a Lawful Evil alien warlord intent on dueling Rufus for the right to invade the Earth (as he mistakenly believes that Rufus is the Earth's greatest champion, and thus, besting him will make him the planet's ruler).
  • 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.
  • SolarBalls: Mars is one of the main protagonists.
  • The Speculative Biology project Har Deshur tries to explore what alien life on the surface of Mars might be like, if conditions had remained more stable and if predictions from before Mariner-4 had turned out to be true. While complex, multicellular life does now exist on the surface in this reality, most of it is small, primitive and adapted to extreme conditions. Also acts as an homage to many earlier speculations about life on Mars. Glimpses of the other alternate planets in the solar system are given on occasion.

    Western Animation 
  • Futurama:
    • After the first human (Philip 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. 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 StarCom: The U.S. Space Force, 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