The real story of humans and Mars is a little more unimaginative but no less fascinating. Telescopes turned the bright red dot in the sky into a fuzzy, mottled disk that gave rise to those daydreams of canals.
When fictional astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) becomes stranded alone on the Red Planet in the novel and film The Martian, people and technology from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, play important roles in his castaway adventure. Acclaimed for its attention to scientific and technical detail, The Martian is steeped in decades of NASA's real-life Mars exploration.
Here are some glimpses of that: (WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD)
PS: Hover your mouse over the images to see comparative visuals