1877: Giovanni Schiaparelli observes “canali” (channels) on the surface of Mars. The term is widely mistranslated as “canals”.
1892: Camille Flammarion suggests that the “canali” might be a planet-wide irrigation system.
1894: Percival Lowell builds observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, and dedicates his life to the study of Mars. He subsequently publishes Mars (in 1895), Mars and Its Canals (1906), and Mars As the Abode of Life (1908).
1909: Mount Wilson Observatory confirms Lowells observations, but many astronomers remain skeptical.
1916: Percival Lowell dies.
1965: Mariner 4 takes pictures that include glimpses of artificial structures on Martian surface, confirms that Martian atmosphere is dense enough for human survival. Mars craze begins.
1969: Apollo 11 lands on the moon. Presentation of Mars Mission plans by Wernher von Braun, which is subsequently supported by Richard Nixon.
1971: Mariner 9 sent to Mars.
1972: Mariner 9 images reveal river beds, canyons, craters, volcanoes, canals, and cities on the surface of Mars. There are even images of what appears to be vegetation. US Congress approves von Braun’s Mars project.
1975: United States invites Soviet Union to participate in Mars mission.
1976: Viking 1 and 2 land on Mars. Data collected shows that humans can survive on Mars, and also discover flora and fauna on the surface. Mars mission plans are reevaluated.
1977: New Mars mission plans are approved by US and Russian governments. Retooling of mission begins. Wernher von Braun dies.
1981: Mars mission team selected.
1986: Mars mission launches.
1987: Mars mission lands.