Perhaps in an attempt to keep the audience from guessing the secret as to why Sam found himself in 1973, the producers had the mysterious powers that be identified as "The Aries Project". With that spelling, a homonym of "Ares", I think they didn't want us to consider "Life On Mars" to have a literal meaning.
Ares is, of course, the God of War in Greek mythology, a real entity in Toobworld (perhaps best known as played by the late Kevin Smith in 'Hercules: The Legendary Journeys). Aries is a Zodiac sign, that of the ram.
But at least we know that the producers knew the difference. The logo for the Aries Project was of a ram's head.
Just a few years earlier, there was a manned space flight to Mars, the Ares IV (mentioned in 'Star Trek: Voyager' and 'Enterprise'), with only one astronaut. This project had to be ready to go, considering the time for travel to Mars; they were probably just waiting to hear if that space mission was a success before launching.
In the meantime, there was probably some public relations imbroglio over the use of the name Ares, considering its connections to the idea of war. Since it was an all-American crew (At least I'm assuming so - Commander Norris didn't speak much; perhaps she was English, or Canadian.), maybe some country who'll be antagonistic to the USA by that point in time objected to the mission on general principle that it was being used as an act of aggression.
So to placate those who objected to "the Ares Project", an "i" was inserted into the name. O'Bviously it could be seen as a thumb to the nose towards the protesters. (I could even see them promoting it as "Now there is an 'i' in 'team'.", since this would be the first team mission to Mars.
Not saying this is what happened, just that it's a pozz'ble splainin.