From the archive

How Nature reported plans for Mars missions in 1969, and the need for surgery near the battlefield during the First World War.

50 Years Ago

With two Mariner spacecraft due to fly by Mars in seven weeks, two Martian orbiters planned for 1971 and two soft landings in 1974, the question of life on Mars could be settled in the next decade. Although this year’s Mariners are programmed not to detect life but rather to ascertain whether conditions are favourable for life, the 1974 landers are to be set down in the wave of darkening where a colour change which may be biological occurs in the Martian spring … The two orbiters planned for 1971 … will orbit the planet for three months. Each spacecraft will weigh about 2,000 lb, of which 900 lb will be propellants so that 1,100 lb containing 125 lb of scientific instruments will be orbited.

From Nature 14 June 1969

100 Years Ago

The idea that surgical operations could be performed near the firing line was not accepted at the beginning of the war. It was anticipated that casualties would be … sent to base hospitals for operative treatment. The appearance of gas gangrene on a widespread scale in wounds of all sorts … made it imperative that the surgeon should be brought nearer to the fighting zone. Delay of even a few hours meant loss of limbs and loss of lives. If however, every wounded man could have his wound excised … within a few hours of receiving his wound, gas gangrene was practically abolished. This question and its solution were not merely problems of academic interest to the surgeon; they were of vital moment to the authorities responsible for the Army as a fighting machine. A shortened period of invalidism is fully as important in maintaining the numerical strength of an army as is the keeping up of a supply of fresh reinforcements.

From Nature 12 June 1919

doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-01795-2
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