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A Boomer’s History of Mars

From radio and film to TV and NASA, 12 Martian moments

  • Mars Surface
    Courtesy NASA

    'Mars Fever'

    En español | The Red Planet has fascinated humans since ancient times. The idea that it has intelligent life — advanced mostly by self-taught astronomer Percival Lowell — gave us a centurylong case of “Mars fever.” On the 50th anniversary of Mariner 4’s quest for an up-close look, how many of these Martian moments do you remember?

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  • War of the Worlds illustration
    Mary Evans Picture Library/Everett Collection

    1898: 'The War of the Worlds'

    In H.G. Wells’ sci-fi classic, Martians use robotic fighting machines to take over Earth.

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  • Orson Welles Reading War Of The Worlds
    Harry Warnecke/NY Daily News via Getty Images

    1938: 'War of the Worlds' (radio)

    Orson Welles and his Mercury Theatre make an alien invasion seem just a bit too real.

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  • Invaders from Mars Movie poster
    20thCentFox/Courtesy Everett Collection

    1953: 'Invaders From Mars'

    The surreal frightfest begins with a 12-year-old boy seeing a flying saucer land out back.

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  • The three stooges in orbit movie
    Courtesy Everett Collection

    1962: 'The Three Stooges in Orbit'

    Larry, Moe and Curly Joe foil Martians intent on destroying Disneyland — and the rest of the planet.

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  • Ray Walston in My Favorite Martian
    Gabi Rona/

    1963: 'My Favorite Martian'

    The TV series features Ray Walston as an anthropologist from Mars who’s stranded on Earth.

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  • Remember the past, help shape the future.

    AARP Offer: Remember the past, help shape the future

    Share your stories and help advocate for political support to protect your future.   Join AARP to support living with dignity and purpose.

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  • Mariner Four Mars Explorer
    Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech

    1964: Mariner 4

    The spacecraft takes off to capture the first images of Mars from deep space.

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  • Yip yips from Sesame Street
    2014 Sesame Workshop. All rights reserved.

    1971: Sesame Street’s Yip Yips

    These bug-eyed little Martians have terrifying encounters with everyday Earth objects.

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  • Marvin the martin with space gun
    Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection

    1977: Marvin the Martian

    The soft-spoken but evil villain created by Chuck Jones in 1948 costars in the TV special Bugs Bunny in Space.

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  • Quato from the movie, Total Recall
    TriStar Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

    1990: 'Total Recall'

    Arnold Schwarzenegger travels to Mars to uncover who he really is and why his memory was erased. There he meets Kuato, a deformed humanoid who reads his mind.

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  • An original
    Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

    1996: 'Mars Attacks!'

    Tim Burton lines up big stars for his parody of sci-fi B movies, based on the cult trading-card series.

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  • Mars One housing
    Courtesy Bryan Versteeg/Mars One

    2024: Mars One

    A one-way trip to Mars? Would you volunteer for a permanent human settlement?

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  • AARP Baby Boomers (Sean McCabe)
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As the last of the Baby Boomer Generation turns 50 and more baby boomers are retiring, AARP celebrates the generation that changed the world.