Science Fiction and Our Fascination with Stories About Mars

Scientists and science fiction writers talk about the importance of storytelling.

Video Transcript

- NASA Earth Satellite to Mars Gravity Probe 1.

- Special delivery from Mars.

CASEY MENDOZA: Science fiction fuels public fascination with space exploration. Stories of traveling to the moon predated the space race of the '50s and '60s. And fictional depictions of colonies on Mars are coming out at the same time NASA sends actual rovers, like Perseverence, to collect data from the planet.

SYLVAIN NEUVEL: I love the fact that my son has been excited by this.

KAREN OSBORNE: And I would dream about flying on the Enterprise. And I'd watch the space shuttle launches go up.

SYLVAIN NEUVEL: You know, it sparks the collective imagination. And it creates future scientists.

CASEY MENDOZA: Stories about Mars in particular say a lot about humanity's need to explore, as well as our fears about what could be out there.

MIKA MCKINNON: A lot of stories about Mars start off as a version of the Western Frontier cowboy, but set on a different planet. There's also often the conquering story of, what if we were at war with Mars?

- The nations of the world mobilized their armed might, rushing to defend the Earth against the unknown weapons of the super race from the red planet.

CASEY MENDOZA: As scientists made advancements in space exploration, successfully landing the first Mars Rover in 1997, more fiction about Mars started using real science too, drawing on actual research and asking more questions like how can we survive living on another planet?

- We have to have complex astrophysical engineering conversations [BEEPING] using nothing but a still frame camera from 1996.

CHARLIE JANE ANDERS: I can still remember when nothing from Earth had been to that planet. So it's just so exciting when we're able to do things like that.

CASEY MENDOZA: "The Martian," both a book and Oscar-nominated film, is about an astronaut left behind on the red planet and the rescue mission to bring him back home. It's one of the most well-known technically accurate sci-fi titles because it was driven by real-life research and accurate math.

MIKA MCKINNON: It's a story of survival and of adapting to your environment and finding ways to make things work and of cooperation and collaboration to pull true together.

CASEY MENDOZA: For audiences, stories like "The Martian" aren't just entertaining. They're informative about the science and the real-life work behind the scenes of labs and launch sites. Most importantly, they could help us imagine what's possible in the universe.

SYLVAIN NEUVEL: Science fiction is going to be the way you're introduced to things like artificial intelligence, genetics, bioengineering.

CHARLIE JANE ANDERS: When it comes to the unknown, to the things that we've never seen or touched before, we always go there first with our imagination.

CASEY MENDOZA: Casey Mendoza, Newsy, Earth.