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The Face on Mars: Once and for All
For almost 25 years, it has been the subject of wonder, debate and wild speculation. And despite new images that seemed to have settled the matter, the possibility of some unknown history or civilization continues to fascinate us.

When the Viking Orbiter radioed back an image from the Cydonia region of Mars in 1976, scientists were amused by a formation that strongly resembled a human or humanoid face staring straight up into the heavens. Most scientists didn't think much of the formation, except as a quirky coincidence - a trick of light and shadow on a somewhat oval-shaped outcropping on the Martian plain. They knew that the resolution from the orbiter wasn't especially sharp and that they really couldn't tell from the blurry, grainy image exactly what this thing really looked like. There were many more features of the Red Planet that were of far greater interest to planetary scientists than what was dubbed "the Face on Mars," and it was more or less forgotten. After all, there was no intelligent life on Mars, and the idea that some sentient race of beings deliberately created this face was ridiculous.

Or was it? A few years after Viking took the images, the face was "rediscovered" by Vincent DiPietro and Gregory Molenaar, two engineers at the Goddard Spaceflight Center. When the image of the Face was released to the public, it became an instant sensation. Despite NASA's downplay of the image and assurances that it was not "real," the formation's likeness to a human face was so uncanny that many people seriously wondered if there were a chance it could be real. The Face appeared on two separate frames of the Viking scans, each taken when the sun was at different angles, and in both cases the features of the face remained. The proportions seemed to be correct. And even though the right side of the Face was in deep shadow, it appeared to be quite symmetrical - something that was highly unlikely in a natural formation. And there was more.

Could it be possible? Could the Face be a gigantic monument erected by an alien race? And if it were an alien race that built it, why did it look so human?

A few researchers, such a Mark J. Carlotto (an electrical engineer and experienced digital image processor) and Stanley V. McDaniel (a Professor of Philosophy at Sonoma State University in northern California), took it upon themselves to use computer technology to clean up and enhance the original NASA pictures and speculate on their possible meaning. These refined images seemed to bring out even more human-like features in the Face. It looked as if it were wearing a helmet or some kind of headpiece. Teeth, perhaps, could be seen within the mouth and irises within the eyes. Further digital enhancement produced intriguing three-dimensional views of the Face that bolstered confidence in many believers that this was no trick of light and shadow. This was the real deal - evidence of a civilization on another planet.

Who Could Have Built It?

Could it be possible? Could the Face be a gigantic monument erected by an alien race? And if it were an alien race that built it, why did it look so human?

Other discoveries near the Face on the Cydonia plateau were perhaps clues to the identity of the builders and their relationship to life on Earth. Just west of the Face is a collection of odd features that also looked like they might be artificial. There were pyramids and a complex of structures that advocates were calling "the city." Pyramids, of course, automatically make us think of ancient Egypt, which has long conveyed its own mystique. Even before the discovery of the pyramids on Mars, certain fringe groups theorized that the pyramids of Egypt were built by - or at least with the assistance of - aliens. So when these pyramids were seen on Cydonia, the Face gained even more credibility in some circles.

Indeed, the overhead images of the Cydonia pyramids as seen by Viking and aerial photos of the Egyptian pyramids are strikingly similar. Could the structures on both planets have been constructed by the same ancient civilization? Proponents of the theory claimed that the Face on Mars was similar in many respects to the Egyptian Sphinx. Was some ancient race of beings present on both Earth and Mars? Did the same race seed both planets with intelligent life? The possibility was staggering in its implications. If it were true, it would change everything we had previously believed about the origin of life on Earth, the history of human civilization and possibly our place in the universe.

Next page > Was the Face Really a Face? > Page 1, 2

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