Mars has always held a special fascination for Mankind,
perhaps because of its reddish hue, or the fact that of all the planets in our
Solar System it has been viewed as our most likely neighbour to harbour
life. Yet Mars is now a cold barren world, whose
red colour comes from the dust which covers most of its surface. Mars is only one half the size of the Earth
and is further from the Sun, having a year of 687 days each of which are only 41
minutes longer than those on Earth. Its surface gravity is 2/5ths that of Earth
and its temperature ranges from 220º C. max to –126º C. min.
Controversy about the possibility of intelligent life on Mars was
sparked in 1877 when the Italian astronomer, Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli
observed what he thought were straight canals on the planet’s surface. His
observations were ‘confirmed’ by the American astronomer Percival Lovel
(1855-1916 - left) who concluded that the markings were bands of vegetation
bordering canals that had been constructed by intelligent beings to carry water
from the Martian polar regions, where there was ice.
However, by the 1950s, the theory had been dismissed, as
more powerful telescopes revealed that the canals did not exist.
By that time, Orson
Wells had transmitted his famous ‘War of the Worlds’ radio play which was
to have a profound effect on the American psyche, not least on the minds of the
government who were made all too aware of the impact of the suggestion of
hostile alien races.
And then in 1997 came the dramatic announcement from NASA that life
actually had been discovered on Mars and that this life had landed on Earth. The
news made headlines in every paper throughout this country and the world. The story could have supported the science fiction appetite of
legions who believed in life on Mars for the discovery could have led to an
entire new chapter in human history had the alien life form discovered been
somewhat different from that announced.
The aliens had landed on Earth’s barren continent of Antarctica. Their method
of travel brought them safely through Earth’s atmosphere and onto the ice-beds
that covered the frozen wasteland. Yet the aliens turned out to pose no threat
to mankind, they couldn’t even don a spacesuit let alone demand to be taken to
anyone’s leader, unless, possibly the leader was an amoeba who shared a basic
For the ‘alien’ life forms discovered were small fossils
embedded in meteorites from the planet Mars that had crash landed on Antarctica
at some point in our distant history.
The meteorite containing the fossil is known to have
originated from Mars from the measurement of gasses trapped in its interior as
these gases match those that the spacecraft Viking measured in the Martian
atmosphere. Some scientists, however, have dismissed NASA’s claims that fossils
actually came from Mars citing a more Earth based origin.
information from the earlier Viking spacecraft that had led the scientists
to conclude that the meteorites - if not necessarily the fossils - came
from Mars. This probe had undertaken a ten month, 440 million mile journey
to the Red planet in 1976.
Viking could not
only orbit Mars but could even land on its surface, sending back striking
images such as the one (above overleaf.) In fact Viking took over 50,000
pictures of the surface and even now many of the frames taken have still
to be viewed or analysed.
One particular frame taken on the Viking missions of the
Cydonia Plateau, (frame 35A72) caught the eye of Dr Tobias Owen, later to become
Professor of Astronomy at the University of Hawaii. The frame appeared to show a face on the planet’s surface. This
‘Face’ was approximately 1.6 miles in length, 1.2 miles wide and between
1650 and 2600 feet high. When enlarged, the full features of the alleged face seemingly
The image was then seized upon by numerous writers and
researchers as irrefutable proof that some ancient civilisation lived upon, or
visited Mars, at some time in prehistory leaving this incredible
‘monument’. It has even been claimed that the face on
Mars is the Martian
equivalent of the Sphinx, with similar pyramidal shapes adorning the nearby Cydonia plateau.