A futuristic space station hurtles through the Martian atmosphere in Pierre Mion's painting from the late 1980s.
The first space stations were built in Russia and the United States during the 1970s to test the effects of spaceflight on the human body. (See pictures of early U.S. spaceflight.)
Russia's Salyut 1, the world's first space station, was launched in April 1971. The first crew members to try to board had to turn back after a hatch failed to open.
A second crew of three spent 22 days on the station, but died on their way back to Earth after their Soyuz capsule depressurized during re-entry. The station entered a decaying orbit and broke up over the Pacific Ocean in October 1971.
The United States' Skylab, launched in 1973, hosted crews over the course of a year before being left to circle the Earth, vacant, until re-entering the atmosphere and breaking up over the Indian Ocean and western Australia in 1979.
The cost and dangers of a manned mission to Mars, including radiation and psychological concerns, have kept the planet beyond the reach of human visitors.
But if Dennis Tito's plans for a manned flyby of the red planet succeeds, the scenario envisioned in Mion's painting may be realized in the not-too-distant future. (Related: "Psychological Challenges of a Manned Mission to Mars.")