Mars Proves to Be a Bust
By the time space flight became a reality, taking a journey to Mars was a major priority. At this time, scientists were not necessarily looking specifically for water, but for signs of life in general. The moment when society's fictional vision of Mars changed from a functional alien world to a desolate landscape occurred on July 14, 1965. The Mariner 4 space probe successfully performed a flyby on the red planet, providing humans with the first glimpse of an alien world. Unfortunately, for all those scientists and creative fiction writers, Mars did not appear to have an advanced civilization. It did not have an advanced series of canals. In fact, it looked very much like a dead world not too far removed from our own moon.
Collectively, a piece of our innocence was lost that day. We went from believing an unknown world of life existed or, at least, had existed on another planet to being alone again in the Universe. This was a major bummer for the future of Mars exploration. But, not to be dissuaded, we continued on our path of exploration on the red planet. Since there was no obvious presence of humanoid lives, it was still possible there was smaller forms of life. Our next step was to look for small microbes or bacteria. To do this, we focused on putting a couple landers on the surface itself. This exploration took the form of the Viking probes.
Although there were questions about the Vikings discovering signs of life on the surface, it didn't stop NASA from continuing its quest on the red planet. However, with limited potential for overt evidence, the organization changed its course and was on the search for the ultimate building block of life: water. This seemed like a tailored plan, especially since many of the probes we had sent provided us with pictures of what looked like dried up river beds. Finally, after years of conjecture, we had a mission that seemed like a cut and dry possibility. Either there is water or there is not.