Sagan concluded that the explanation for the face is that it is
the result of erosion, winds and other natural phenomena (2). NASA shared this
view however after much public pressure eventually agreed to re-photograph the
area on its next visit to the planet, however even this was tied up in
controversy with claims that the organisation would deliberately miss any
further opportunity or doctor new photographs of the area before releasing them
into the public domain.
History, it seems, was to prove NASA and Sagan right - even
though the latter did not live see his views confirmed. NASA’s Mars Global
Surveyor arrived at the red planet in early 1998 and on 4th April of
that year, the craft sent back the first detailed high resolution images of the
‘Face’ and surrounding terrain. The image appears to confirm that ‘the face on Mars’ is indeed the
product of a trick of the light.
‘Not so’, cry researchers such as Richard Hoagland of the
Enterprise Mission with its catchy slogan ‘To Boldly Go Where Someone Has
Gone Before.’ (If achieving nothing else, then perpetuating one of the most
well-known split infinitives in the history of grammar.) Hoagland claims that NASA has deliberately tampered with the
images, and has released them missing key data. Others have accepted that the
image is disappointing and have turned their sights to other features of Cydonia
that they claim are anomalous.
In fact, there is no evidence left to suggest that any feature
on Cydonia is anomalous, and now the new images are available, little credence
can be placed on any claims made about an area photographed in the 1970s
hundreds of miles above the planet’s surface. There is, however, another anomaly
on the planet’s surface that has not yet been satisfactorily explained (left). This anomaly had been photographed on the Martian surface by
Mariner 9. This feature, reported to be just under the surface of the planet,
covers an area of 3.6 too 4.2 miles. (NASA Frame 75-H-604 – blow-up of this
NASA scientists claim that this unusual feature was caused
by the melting and collapse of permafrost layers, others have commented that the
structure looks more like a modern airport, and in any event, if taken by
infrared would hardly be showing up melted ice. However exactly what the
feature is, is purely a matter of speculation. Events surrounding the planet however are more intriguing. Mars
has two moons, Deimos and Phobos. Deimos, the smaller moon measures just 8.7
miles across at its widest point. Its surface is a uniform grey-black and dark
Deimos is about twice as dense as water and consists mainly of a type
of rock that suggests it was once a meteor that was captured by the
gravitational influence of Mars (3). Deimos was ‘discovered’ by the astronomer
Asaph Hall in Washington in 1877 at the same time as Mar’s larger moon, Phobos.
discovery is remarkable in itself, for telescopes in 1877 were no more advanced
than previous telescopes and it is difficult to understand why they had not been
seen previously, unless, of course, prior to 1877 they were not in orbit around
Mars. Another explanation may be that Mars is closest to the Earth every 26
months, as it was in 1877.
Phobos itself measures 16.7 by 13.6 by 11.8 miles across and is dominated by
the groove like ‘striations’ emanating from the 6.2 mile wide crater Stickney
which itself covers nearly 10% of the moon’s surface area.