Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mars Eluded Russia; Not Our Man Todd

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mars Eluded Russia; Not Our Man Todd

Article excerpt

Russia's Mars probe came a cropper last weekend. It cost a

bundle. Professor Todd had more luck 90 years ago.

Spacecraft Mars '96 was to reach the Red Planet by September.

Instead it crashed near Easter Island.

The failure scuttled Russia's part in a 10-year probe of

Earth's nearest planetary neighbor. They can't afford another

shot.

David Todd could.

Jacksonville's evening newspaper announced 89 years ago this

month David Todd had discovered life on Mars.

He did it from the Andes Mountains, 2,000 miles east of where

the Russians came to grief.

Todd's assertion jump-started the imagination of America, a

nation flushed open by flight.

Balloons had fixed the notion of airborne adventure in the

public mind. Rickety flying machines were taking to air.

Space travel was but a leap beyond, in the imagination if not

the gondola.

Jacksonville, even then on the cutting edge, was the balloon

capital of the South. Aeronauts frequently ascended from

Dixieland amusement park on the Southside.

Indeed, the curiously named Bud Mars operated Dixieland's

captive balloon, in which many Jaxons experienced the thrill of

ascension, once it was found. The Bud Mars balloon had been lost

on the train to Jacksonville, perhaps leading to speculation if

intelligence on the planet Mars was capable of losing a hot-air

balloon on a railroad train.

Todd's claim hit The Evening Metropolis Thursday, Nov. 7, 1907.

"Planet Mars Is Inhabited," said its no-doubt headline.

"A race of beings of high intelligence dwells there and

probably has dwelled there for ages."

It was another dollop in a time of high adventure and wild

discovery.

The pulp press was pounding out legends of the Wild West.

Cannibals, seers and sea monsters abounded in tales of the daily

press. Martians, Venusians and kindred aliens were but a wink

beyond.

In this extravagant milieu, Todd was not exactly chopped liver. …

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