A Trip to Mars


A floating Martian city from Letters from the Planets (1890) by WS Lach-Szyrma. Illustration by Paul Handy.

In honour of the remarkable landing on Mars of the Curiosity Rover, a handful of random illustrations from the vast stock of imagery generated by the Red Planet over the past century-and-a-half. When it comes to Mars I’m afraid you can keep your terraforming and geodesic domes, I prefer the more fanciful scenarios involving air-boats, cloaks and actual canals. Paul Handy’s illustration above shows what I believe is a Venusian vehicle sailing past a Martian city, Lach-Szyrma’s book concerning a journey through the solar system. I only have small copies of these pictures in a book, so far they don’t seem to have turned up online.


A Trip to Mars (1909) by Fenton Ash. Illustrations by WHC Groome.

Fenton Ash was the nom de plume of British author Francis Henry Atkins. A Trip to Mars concerns another exploratory journey taken this time by a pair of Edwardian schoolboys.



To Mars via the Moon (1911) by Mark Wicks. “View from the Air-ship, over the Canals and the City of Sirapion.”

Mark Wicks’ book was illustrated by the author in a style that seems surprisingly naive for the time. Lack of confidence may explain why he didn’t show more of the Martians’ architecture.


Planet Stories, March 1951. Cover painting by Allen Anderson.

Leigh Brackett wrote some great swashbuckling science fiction (she was also a very adept screenwriter), and this cover is a perfect depiction of her oeuvre, with its Rita Hayworth Amazon cutting a swathe through a nest of grasping tentacles.


Martian Canal by Virgil Finlay from The Complete Book of Space Travel by Albro Gaul (1956).

Last but never least, there’s Virgil Finlay. Some of these pictures can be found at the Mars in Science Fiction Flickr collection. To bring things back to the present, I recommend this animation showing how NASA’s engineers managed to successfully land a vehicle the size of a car on the surface of Mars.

Update: Roland Kovac and his Orchester have made the perfect soundtrack for browsing those Flickr pages: Trip To The Mars. (Thanks Jonathan!)

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Signals from Mars

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