Space Feature

Clarke believes plants row in the Red Planet's southern hemisphere

Photo by: Dilip Mehta

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The Banyan trees of Mars: Sir Arthur C. Clarke's minority view.

"I'm now convinced that Mars is inhabited by a race of demented landscape gardeners," Sir Arthur C. Clarke announced recently.

The author of 2001: A Space Odyssey was only half-joking. He claims that an image produced by the Mars Global Surveyor satellite shows "large areas of vegetation . . . like banyan trees." Most experts dismiss the idea. But Popular Science loves a free thinker, especially one as talented and charming as Sir Arthur. We questioned him in Sri Lanka via e-mail.

Nicole Foulke

Popular Science What makes you so confident there is life on Mars?

Arthur C. Clarke The image is so striking that there is no need to say anything about it -- it's obviously vegetation to any unbiased eye.

PS What about animal life?

AC If there is vegetation, it seems probable there are other life-forms as well.

PS Few experts agree with you.

AC Remember how a certain Astronomer Royal said that space flight was 'utter bilge'?

[Indeed, Richard van der Reit Wooley said so in 1956 -- Ed.] But they are right to be cautious -- we still don't have 100 percent proof. I think it's in the high nineties!

PS Why are you so passionate about this?

AC Because nothing could be more important than the discovery of other life-forms. It's getting lonely down here.

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