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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2004 > Mar > Mar 7

NASA Deluged By Civilians' Mars 'Discoveries'

From: Frank Warren <frank-warren.nul>
Date: Sat, 06 Mar 2004 20:43:19 -0800
Fwd Date: Sun, 07 Mar 2004 11:38:32 -0500
Subject: NASA Deluged By Civilians' Mars 'Discoveries'


Source: The Sun Herald

http://www.sunherald.com/mld/sunherald/news/nation/8124461.htm

Sat, Mar. 06, 2004

NASA Deluged By Civilians' Mars 'Discoveries'

BY FAYE FLAM

Knight Ridder Newspapers

PHILADELPHIA - (KRT) - Forget about ancient traces of water on
Mars. There's a little white bunny up there.

And stone tools.

And dinosaur fossils.

Plants, art, even letters of the alphabet.

While NASA scientists pore over the latest Red Planet images for
shreds of evidence that it might have supported algae or pond
scum, thousands of earnest civilians are scanning the same
pictures and pointing out all sorts of things the professionals
missed or haven't acknowledged.

Ever since the robot rovers Spirit and Opportunity landed on
Mars in January, NASA has been flooded with hundreds of daily
calls and e-mails from people eager to share their own dramatic
discoveries.

Medford, N.J., resident George Filer says he has spotted letters
similar to E and G, written on Martian rocks. Filer and his
associates at MUFON (Mutual UFO Network) believe these are the
creations of intelligent beings. He's been trying to tell NASA,
without success.

"They keep a lot from the public," said Filer, a retired Air
Force pilot.

Another observer called The Philadelphia Inquirer to report he'd
seen fossils of dinosaurs and their eggs, and a multitude of
marine fossils - whales, fish and giant squid. "You have to know
how to look," he said. Others have seen rocks they say appear to
have been fashioned into primitive stone tools.

Never before have earthlings had such sharp pictures from
another world, or such easy access to chat rooms, Web sites and
virtual communities to discuss the fossils, tools, letters and
the bunny. Especially the bunny.

A white rabbitlike image appeared in some of the first pictures
beamed back from Opportunity, caught in three-quarter profile,
long ears erect.

"Some Web sites have detailed spatial analysis on the bunny,"
said project scientist Phil Christensen of Arizona State
University.

Christensen says he saw the bunny in the early shots beamed back
from Opportunity. He said he lobbied to have the rover take a
closer look, but the bunny disappeared.

NASA scientists believe the "bunny" was probably a piece of the
landing air bag or some other bit of human-generated trash,
Christensen said. On one Web site, an outraged writer accused
NASA of intentionally running over the bunny with the rover.

The notion of bunnies on Mars may seem far-fetched now, but it
wasn't all that long ago that even eminent scientists speculated
about Martian trees, animals, even intelligent beings. In the
1960s, popular astronomer and author Carl Sagan talked up the
prospect of life on both Mars and Venus.

A closer look at Venus showed it was more than 800 degrees at
the surface. And then in 1965, the spacecraft Mariner 4 flew by
Mars and snapped the first close-up pictures of Mars - which
were both amazing and disheartening. They revealed nothing but a
dry, dead landscape.

"There was nowhere to hide large, conspicuous organisms," said
Harvard biologist Andrew Knoll.

But Sagan and other scientists didn't give up hope; perhaps life
was there in a more subtle form.

When the Viking spacecraft landed on Mars in 1976, it ran a
series of tests for life. A robotic arm on Viking mixed
nutrients with the Martian soil to see whether any microbes
would metabolize them and spit out telltale gases. The tests
came back positive.

Scientists waffled for months over whether the tests could
possibly indicate life. Meanwhile, pictures came back that
showed a rock etched with a shape similar to a letter B, said
Christensen, who worked as a NASA intern at the time.

The NASA guys thought it was funny, he said, but many in the
public believed the B was carved by Martians. "We learned our
lesson," said Christensen. "For a lot of people, this wasn't
funny."

NASA scientists did more analyses of the Viking landing site and
found surprises in the chemistry of the Martian soil. They
decided it was an unanticipated chemical reaction that made
their life-test come out positive. Adding to the bleak picture,
they determined that the atmosphere was less than 1 percent as
thick as ours.

According to "Captured by Aliens, by Joel Achenbach, Sagan
pretty much killed the B theory when he told talk-show host
Johnny Carson it was very unlikely that Martians would use the
same alphabet as Americans.

But in 1976 NASA did it again. In pictures beamed back from the
Viking Orbiter, it noticed a hill that looked like a huge face
with a solemn expression. The agency printed and released the
picture: a cute artifact of light. It got little attention at
first.

Eight years later, in 1984, the face stared out at millions of
supermarket shoppers from the cover of the Weekly World News.
Former CBS science consultant Richard Hoagland wrote a book
speculating that the face, as well as several pyramids, were
carved by an ancient Martian civilization.

Thousands of people still believe aliens made the face, though a
later view of Mars from the Mars Global Surveyor found that,
from a different angle, it just looked like a hill.

George Filer is not deterred. In a boulder photographed by
Spirit on its 44th Martian day, he said, there's a distinct
white E and a G, though the E may be closed off at the top, like
a P. The letters appear to be 3 to 4 inches tall, Filer said.

In his living room, he enlarged the picture on his wide-screen
television. He still had to point out the E and the G. They
looked like they might have been chiseled or spray-painted or
they might have been created by streaks of light that happened
to look like letters.

"I could see easily how NASA would miss them," he said. "What we
do is blow them up, so to speak, on the computer, using
Photoshop and the like. If you believe there's something out
there, you look for evidence."

Christensen said NASA can't make announcements about such
observations unless scientists rule out more mundane
explanations. They have to be wary of belief. As physicist
Richard Feynman once said: The first principle is that you must
not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool.

Some people at NASA probably know about the letters and much
more, Filer said. "I was in the military and there are a lot of
things you can't talk about." He believes NASA is trying to hide
that Mars and the universe are teeming with life.

NASA's Michelle Viotti, the agency's manager for Mars public
engagement, said she's not ignoring Filer; it's just that the
phones are ringing off the hook, and the space agency is still
sorting through the more than 15,000 e-mails it got from the
public in January. NASA is not hiding anything, she said.

"Secretly, deep down, we all hope there's life beyond our own
home planet."






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