They’re taking a highway into space. Man unshackling himself and sending his tiny, groping fingers up into the unknown. Their destination is Mars. And in just a moment we’ll land there with them.
It is the Twilight Zone, so you can be sure the rocket will crash, stranding the astronauts on Mars where they will suffer some not-quite-as-it-seems experience that is meant to convey some lesson. The episode was adapted from a Paul W. Fairman story, “Brothers Beyond the Void.” What caught my attention was not the literary debt, however, but was the visual reference to the canals of Mars, images made popular by Percival Lowell’s sustained efforts to study the planet.
About 30 seconds into the show we see the rocket gliding toward Mars and then the scene cuts to a full-frame shot of Mars.
This image seems obviously inspired by Lowell’s drawings of the canals on Mars. While by no means identical (or at least, I haven’t found a drawing by Lowell that is identical) they are remarkably similar. See, for example, this drawing by Lowell:
Lowell was enamored with Mars and things Martian. He built his observatory in Flagstaff in order to observe Mars. He studied the planet for years, publishing three books on it: Mars, Mars and Its Canals, and Mars As the Abode of Life. These books and his other scientific/astronomical publications contained numerous drawings of the features that Lowell was convinced were canals and oases. He thought these canals transported water melting from polar icecaps to the increasingly arid portions of the planet. He was also convinced that he had observed these oases grow and shrink throughout the year. Both were evidence that intelligent beings lived on Mars.