Mars on Earth

What can Victorian-era polar exploration teach us about space travel?

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About the Show

Journey into the past and you’ll discover the secret history of the future. From the world’s first cyberattack in 1834, to 19th-century virtual reality, the Economist’s Tom Standage and Slate’s Seth Stevenson examine the historical precedents that can transform our understanding of modern technology, predicting how it might evolve and highlighting pitfalls to avoid. Discovering how people reacted to past innovations can also teach us about ourselves.

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Polar exploration was the Victorian equivalent of the space race. Major powers vied to outdo each other, funding expeditions to the most inhospitable parts of the world as demonstrations of their supremacy over nature and each other. Today, the resulting tales of triumph and tragedy hold valuable lessons about what to do—and what not to do—as human explorers plan missions to Mars.

Podcast production by Bart Warshaw and Kate Holland.