Mars Music

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Humans use music (rhythm and melody and sometimes lyrics) to express themselves  and convey to others their feelings. It is one of the classic Art forms.Shared music is one aspect of shared togetherness, and social groups may be identified by their common songs. Some music from many genres has been about or related to Mars and is summarized in this article.

The Classical Mars Music

The most famous music related to Mars was composed by Gustav Holst in 1914 as the first part of his orchestral work - The Planets. The first of these movements was “The Bringer of War.” The name we now know it by   — “Mars - The Bringer of War” —  was given to the piece at its first public performance in 1918.  According to Prof. Robert Greenberg, “Each movement in The Planets represents the embodiment of the titled astrological character and then proceeds as an abstract musical composition.” He interprets the movement as about the destructive nature of Mars (the astrological Mars), himself, and the militant music as a metaphor for humanity’s darkest side.[Ref: The 30 Greatest Orchestral Works, Prof. Robert Greenberg, Copyright 2011 by The Teaching Company.]

Finding an Anthem for Mars - The Roget de Lisle Award

A national anthem like Le Marseillaise can be taken as an expression of the members of that nation. While we Earthlings should not be expected to write an anthem for future humans in Mars settlements, an anthem for Mars written today can represent those individuals and groups who are supporting the exploration and settlement of Mars by humans.

In 2000 and again in 2004 The Mars Society held a Mars song contest with the winner receiving the “Roget de Lisle” Award. The Award was named for the composer of “Le Marseillaise” - now the national anthem of France. History has it the on first hearing “The Marseillaise” sung in the streets of revolutionary Paris in 1792, a young Napoleon Bonaparte is said to have exclaimed to the song’s author, “Monsieur, your song is worth a hundred regiments!” Dr. Robert Zubrin noted that “Throughout history, great causes have often found expression — and a significant part of their power — in music. The concept of the Roget de Lisle Award was to be encourage the writing of a song that could serve as an anthem for the new branch of human civilization that would be created on Mars.

In 2000 the winner of the Roget de Lisle contest was “The Pioneers of Mars” Written by Lloyd Landa and Karen Linsley and performed by Karen Linsley at the Third International Mars Society Convention in Toronto in August 2000. Zubrin described the event as follows: “Ten days before the song’s public debut, Lloyd was taken by a heart attack, leaving Karen bereft not only of her musical partner, but of her life’s companion as well.Nevertheless, Karen (who lives in Toronto) came down to the convention to perform, knowing it was what Lloyd would have wanted. Standing with tears in her eyes in front of a banquet hall filled with 500 people, Karen sang her heart out. The song told of the invincible capacity for hope within the human spirit — the hope that will allow pioneers in the future to make a new home for humanity on Mars. I have never been so moved.”

The lyrics of "The Pioneers of Mars" are:

We are the new explorers —

A sacred trust we keep

From forefathers before us

Who braved the briny deep.

Our mission aims us skyward

To the cold hard light of stars.

We leave Terra behind us

To be the pioneers of Mars.

In every generation,

There grows a special breed

Who seeks out new horizons

To fulfill an ancient need

To climb atop the highest hill,

To see what lies afar.

We follow in their footsteps.

The pioneers of Mars.

We stand on harsh, red, rocky soil

In a silence so profound,

Envisioning what we’ll create

Upon this virgin ground.

The human race has staked its claim;

The future will be ours.

We’ll build a new tomorrow:

We’re the pioneers of Mars.

We’ll build a new tomorrow.

We’re the pioneers of Mars.

The performance of The Pioneers of Mars was included in a music CD entitled To Touch the Stars: A Musical Celebration of Space Exploration (produced by Prometheus) as was another Mars song “I Want to Go to Mars” by The Birdwatchers and written in more of a pop-rock style.

The winner of the 2004 Roget de Lisle contest was “Thank God Dreams Survive.” It was written and performed by Bill and Tina Swindell © 2004 and self published on YouTube.  While this song focused on space travel and exploration and not specifically on Mars, it is an inspiring song worthy of the anthem classification.

Much of the Mars music produced for these Mars Society contests might rightly be classified as folk music with accompaniment on a few instruments. The music for all entrants to the 2000 and 2004 Roget de Lisle song contests can be found (as playable mp3s) in the The Mars Society archive - MarsPapers — and also on the CDROM that accompanies the book On to Mars 2. [1]

Mars in Popular Music

There have been ranked lists of pop-rock “Best Songs About Mars” in which there might be a single word reference to Mars, but few of these can be described as truly about Mars or Mars Settlement or inspiring others to go to Mars. For example the most popular of these is currently David Bowie’s "Life on Mars."[1] There is the rock band called 30 Seconds to Mars. One of its founders, Jared Leto, described the name as "a reference, a rough translation…a metaphor for the future," he explained. "Thirty seconds to Mars—the fact that we're so close to something that's not a tangible idea. However, there is no more connection to Mars music in this band than there is between the connection of Bruno Mars to Mars music.

A Mars Anthem for Orchestra

2017 saw the first orchestral production of a Mars song that was performed as an anthem for Mars. The anthem “Rise to Mars” was composed by opera singer, Dom Victor Castellino, (lyrics by O. Castellino and R. Zubrin). [2]

The lyrics to "Rise to Mars" are:

Rise to Mars! Men and women

Dare to dream! Dare to strive!

Build a home for our children

Make this desert come alive!

There are challenges before our eyes

That nature never knew

But the power of human enterprise

Shall take us through and through!

Rise to Mars! Men and women

Dare to dream! Dare to strive

Build a home for our children

Make this desert come alive!

Come along raging nations

Altogether hopeful spirits

Bring an end to strife

For our future lies beyond the skies

Rise to Mars! Men and women

Dare to dream! Dare to strive!

Build a home for our children

Make this desert come alive!

Come along, altogether

For our future

Rise to Mars!

“Rise to Mars!” had its world premiere in 2017  performed by the Royal Welsh REPCo Sinfonia, (soloist Oscar Castellino)  at the Dora Stoutzker Hall, Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Cardiff, Wales. The performance can be viewed on YouTube.[3]


  1. On to Mars 2 - Exploring and Settling a New World, Compiled and edited by Frank Crossman and Robert Zubrin, Apogee Books, Burlington, Ontario, Canada, 2005, ISBN 1-894959-30-2