[ Posted : 03.20.04 ]

Ignoring Fossils On Mars
By David Sadler
Art by Steve Troy


Print the image in question , and print the paper by Richard C. Hoagland. Let your readers decide.

Image: Opportunity rover image 034/1M131201538EFF0500P2933M2M1

Paper: " The Curious Case of the NASA Crinoid Cover-Up."



Engage in a debate on this fossil candidate with Richard C. Hoagland and his team. Broadcast this debate on NASA TV and let the public decide whether or not NASA destroyed a fossil candidate.


On or about March 8, 2004, Richard C. Hoagland published a paper titled, "The Curious Case of the NASA Crinoid Cover-Up." This paper may be found at

The paper carefully considers a fossil candidate on Mars imaged by the MER Opportunity's microscopic imager. These images are posted by JPL at

Before ordering a scientific survey of this specimen, the rover Opportunity was instructed to grind this fossil candidate to dust, which it did with unquestioned efficiency.

Since then, very curious media has emerged that suggests NASA doesn't want anyone discussing or showing the potential fossil.

Immediately after Hoagland's paper was published to the Internet, Hoagland came under intense personal attack by persons closely aligned with NASA.

On March 15, 2004, Space.com published a character assassination piece with the provocative title, "War of the Words: Scientist Attacks Alien Claims." This article is posted at

Hoagland responded on March 16, 2004 by publishing his email communications with the author of the attack piece, Robert Roy Britt. Britt ignored Hoagland's defense and hard science, choosing instead to concentrate on Hoagland's 'credentials' and his critics' personal accusations, innuendo and deliberate misstatements of fact.

Hoagland's response is titled, "Email Exchange From Rob Roy Britt of Space.com And Richard C. Hoagland on the Plait\Greenberg Allegations." Read this response at

Enterprise published my opinion of this fossil diversion campaign under the title, "NASA RUNNING SCARED: Shooting the Messenger." It, too, was posted on March 16, 2004 and can be read at

Space.com followed immediately the next day, March 17, 2004, by publishing a fossil denial piece that does not mention the fossil candidate in question, but imparts the impression that it is nearly impossible to find a fossil on Mars without astronauts on the scene. This article is titled, "Fossil Hunting on Mars," and can be found in its original published form at

I would like to take this article to task (below), paragraph by paragraph. My comments will be enclosed in this fashion …

((( My comments... )))

On March 19, 2004, CNN jumped on Hoagland by reprinting the "War of the Words" article under the title, "Scientist Attacks Alien Claims On Mars." In this article, there is still no mention of the Crinoid paper and no printing of the Opportunity image sparking this entire controversy. This omission by these news outlets and by the NASA scienticians being interviewed are proof of a campaign to divert attention away from the fossil and discredit the author of the first paper published regarding the fossil. The CNN article can be viewed at


Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome to academic freedom in the New America...


With each passing day, the fossil find is CONFIRMED, by how it is being ACTIVELY ignored and by how one scientist is being dragged behind the proverbial media pickup truck for publishing a thoughtful and scientific analysis of the find!

Using Opportunity's microscopic imager and grinder, a detailed survey of this object could have been performed. A controlled deconstruction of this fossil candidate could have been ordered with multiple targeted grindings planned by trained biologists and paleontologists.

Each grinding could have been closely inspected by Opportunity's microscopic imager and analyzed by biologists and paleontologists the world over. Instead, the fossil candidate was destroyed in one fell swoop.

One is left with the mental image of the MER control room filled with minors fighting over the joy stick to see who gets to drive now and who gets to grind next. Where is the adult supervision at NASA?

It is difficult to describe the loss of this moment and this 'opportunity.'


Speaking of Galileo, it's deja vu all over again, but with a twist.

Father James, Brother Bob and Rabbi Jacob were not at the rover controls. They did not issue the directive to grind the fossil candidate to dust. It was not they who failed to formulate a plan for detailed study of this remarkable artifact. This potential find would have eclipsed every fossil ever found on Earth. And the scientists and engineers at NASA, not the Catholic Church of the 17th century, destroyed it.

After the fossil candidate was ground to dust, it fell into an official black hole. Officially, it does not exist. NASA does not acknowledge it, and you won't see its image in science publications or the mainstream news. In short, the Mars fossil has been excommunicated.

“Without some form of censorship, propaganda in the strict sense of the word is impossible. In order to conduct propaganda, there must be some barrier between the public and the event. Access to the real environment must be limited, before anyone can create a pseudo-environment that he thinks is wise or desirable.”
-- Walter Lippman --

At the same time, a vicious intimidation campaign began to silence anyone drawing attention to the fossil and a debunking campaign began to deny a fossil candidate had been found.

Again, this isn't the 17th century Catholic Church preventing the public from discovering a world-view paradigm shift. It's the New Church of Official Science destroying the evidence then hiding the potential discovery from the public. And this is all happening with the help of mainstream media and so-called 'science' publications.

"Today, the military-industrial complex has expanded to become the military-industrial-media complex... Thanks to lax enforcement of antitrust regulations and far less restrictive telecommunications laws, a mere handful of corporations, many with close ties to the national-security establishment, now controls most of what Americans know about the world."
-- Terry Hansen --

This is how it works in 2004 A.D. That's not a new pulsar being detected by Arecibo. It's Galileo spinning in his grave. But this time it’s the High Priesthood of Scienticians of the New Church of Official Science refusing to look through their own 'telescope' of the 21st century --- the rover Opportunity's microscopic imager.

'Scientician,' is a word combining 'scientist' and 'politician' coined years ago by Dave Powelson to describe the political corruption of a 'scientist.' A scientician is willing to alter and/or ignore observations and research to conform to the political correct thinking or policy of any particular age. No longer an objective scientist, the person becomes a 'political' scientist --- a scientician. The term will be applied in my comments to the Space.com article below.

I am confidant that time will expose the corruption and co-opting of 20th-21st century science. But every age hides a truth. Every age has its scienticians. And every age has its objective scientists willing to confront conformity and battle to have paradigm-shifting evidence considered for its scientific merit. In our age, this is especially true with regards to life beyond Earth and revolutionary energy sources.


One tactic being used by Space.com and the scientists being interviewed is to persuade the reader to ignore anything they've heard about the Crinoid like fossil found on Mars. The intent is to make the reader believe only the experts at NASA can determine what a fossil is. They do this by convincing the reader that it is nearly impossible to identify fossils in general, let alone one on Mars.

Does the intelligent, scientifically oriented reader detect anything missing from the Space.com article, "Fossil Hunting On Mars," and the remarks of those 'scientists' being interviewed? Notice there is:

1. no mention of the fossil,
2. no image of the fossil, and
3. no advocate for the fossil candidate creating this controversy.

Richard C. Hoagland is not interviewed about his paper. Space.com and NASA are both aware of this paper. In fact, the recent and ongoing personal attacks upon Hoagland and now this 'no fossils on Mars' article, both by Space.com, are damage control measures by NASA following Hoagland's publication of the fossil paper and popularization of the fossil find.

These Space.com articles are a stacked deck --- a packed jury and a show-trial to persuade you, the reader, that "There's nothing to see here. Move along. There are no fossils on Mars and nothing even comes close to looking like one, so move along. Nothing to see here."

NASA, in this article, is telling us what to do. "Don't believe your eyes. Forget your education of the sciences. Do not rely on your own intellect to determine what you see. Let us tell you what you see. Let us mold your reality. We are official. We have credentials. We have authority. Just hand over your tax dollars. You pay --- we play."

To that, I have a simple reply that I had hoped to deliver at appropriations time as a member of the U.S. House committee overseeing NASA appropriations.

" America's 'civilian' space exploration program is an empty shell. The shell provides the public with pretty pictures, but little more. Hidden from view behind the pretty pictures and astronaut hero worship is a highly politicized, militarized and corporate owned black operation.

"NASA has grown arrogant in its control of public funds and public data. NASA swims in cultish ritual that is documented and provable. NASA is awash in a culture that denies faults pointed out by its own engineers in both design and procedure. These faults have resulted in the loss of life and extreme damage to and interruption of America's manned access to space.

"NASA feeds at the trough of the public treasury and shows its appreciation for its billions of dollars in annual public funding by treating public-data as proprietary-data and by treating the public as morons. NASA has dishonored its position and abuses the public trust. NASA has destroyed objective science for profit and hidden agendas.

"Today, NASA is back asking the U.S. taxpayer for more money so it, and the contractors that feed from it, can conduct their NEXT mission to 'discover life' or the NEXT mission that, it is promised this time, will really see to the end of the universe. But even fools, such as us, have their limits.

"We saw the Hubble Deep Field. It is a truly remarkable and inspiring image of galaxies as far as we can see. Now we've seen the Hubble Ultra Deep Field. Another awesome image, but still galaxies for as far as we can see. How about showing the public something really interesting closer to home?

"Let's get multiple-angles in high-resolution (1.3 meter) images of the 'tube-dune' and the 'golf ball' that is in the crater near the 'tube-dune' on MGS m1501228.


Click to Enlarge Image


Image Enhancement by Dave Powelson, Blackbird Co.

Click to Enlarge Image

Image Enhancement by Dave Powelson, Blackbird Co.


"We have not seen structures like these on the other moons and planets in our solar system. Aren't you, and isn't NASA, the least bit curious as to what these structures are? Do not give us the dune remark and then expect us to move on. Show us the multi-angled, high-resolution (1.3 meter) images of these objects. We have the technological capability and we are paying for the missions. As Ronald Reagan said, "Mr. Green, I paid for this microphone!" NOW SHOW US THESE FEATURES.

"And rather than attacking people asking tough questions, show us Opportunity rover image 034/1M131201538EFF0500P2933M2M1.

"Tell us why you ground this remarkable specimen to dust when, to many educated and certified biologists and paleontologists, it looks like a fossil. And let us hear directly from the MER team's only official 'paleontologist,' Dr. Andrew Knoll, of Harvard. We want to know where he was and what he was doing when the destruction of this fossil candidate was taking place.

"Explain to this committee why no discussion of this incident and no image of this fossil candidate appears in the many articles attacking a scientist who is trying to draw attention to it.

"Here is a target list of very peculiar features on Mars. We have missions underway that can do real science on these features, IF NASA is still interested in civilian science. We want answers. We want cooperation. We want the full imaging and sensing capability of U.S. taxpayer space assets on and around Mars to zero in on these targets, and we want open data channels on all returned data and telemetry with critics of NASA's data handling in the control rooms at all times. No more data embargoes and sequestering by NASA contractors. This is the public's data. It is not proprietary to contractors or agencies doing the public's work.

"Until these conditions are met, this committee is withholding further funding of NASA operations."


Many people can't take a joke. As a person who has run a political campaign, I am very aware of the dangers resident in jokes and sarcasm. Yet, the absurdity of the "Fossil Hunting On Mars" article and its abject denial by omission of Opportunity's fossil candidate begs for some humor. So in my comments below, I've taken the bait and injected some humor, all in good fun, along with more serious analysis of the interviews.

If I sound angry, I am. 'Opportunity' may not knock twice.

David Sadler

+ + + + +

The following article is a modified version of the original. None of the original text has been altered. However, my comments and analysis of the text has been inserted between paragraphs within a set of three opposing brackets like this...

((( My comments... )))

The original article may be accessed at

Fossil Hunting On Mars
By Leonard David ( ldavid@hq.space.com)
Senior Space Writer

Those on-the-prowl Mars robots -- Spirit and Opportunity -- are sending back extraordinary images and science data about the red planet and its history of climate and water.

Both rovers have found evidence of water at their respective landing sites. But the question remains open as to whether Mars was, or is today, a planet capable of supporting life.

The tell-tale clues of water left behind hint that some spots on Mars did have a persistent wet look that might have been sociable to extraterrestrial creatures. While Mars scientists have their eyes focused on finding tiny microbes, the question remains: just how far along could martian biology, if any, have evolved?

Yet answering this question is a difficult task to answer robotically and it might take rock-splitting fossil hunters, hammer in hand, to chronicle the true life on Mars saga.

Eye of the beholder

Peter Schultz, a planetary geologist at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, said you don't have to look out to Mars to see how hard it is to spot fossils.

((( It should be no surprise that NASA has difficulty recognizing fossils on Mars. It’s hard for NASA to determine the correct colors of Mars, too.

The American taxpayers pay for costly imaging equipment and color calibration charts onboard our rovers and landers. In addition to the expensive equipment, the taxpayers also pay premium rates for the time and effort expended by NASA employees and contractors on Earth to develop procedures ensuring that correct colors are rendered under all lighting and environmental conditions on Mars. But with all the costly equipment and preparation, NASA admits it can't get the colors right and that the color is really subjective. See Notes (1) at the end of this article. )))

"We even have trouble identifying fossils on Earth that are older than 3 billion years old. There continues to be debate today," Schultz said. Many primitive life forms leave only subtle traces and often require sophisticated techniques to prove that they indeed were produced by something living, he said.

((( Shultz is intentionally confusing the reader. The fossil candidate that NASA promptly destroyed and which Space.com refuses to even mention, let alone show the image of, is not difficult to resolve with a high-degree of confidence. It is rather obvious, and many biologists, geologists and paleontologists have identified it as being very similar -- if not identical (!) -- to a terrestrial Crinoid (sea lily).

Schultz is talking about the very first, single-celled life forms to appear on Earth. No biologist or paleontologist has difficulty identifying a fossil the likes of a Crinoid. And that is the issue at hand --- the Mars fossil candidate. This is not a single-celled life form. The Mars fossil candidate is a multi-celled, multi-stemmed, multi-segmented, fully formed, fully differentiated and fully-functional Crinoid like fossil. Similar fossils on Earth date much younger than the “three billion years” mentioned by Shultz. )))

Those studying the incoming Mars rover images clearly get an eye-full. For many a casual observer, the zones in which the robots tread appear to be chocked full of objects, from weird rocks to leftover remains of long-gone life.

((( This is a direct, if simultaneously indirect, shot at Hoagland. See the Space.com article titled, " War of the Words." )))

"There are slow geochemical processes that can create spherical shapes and filamentous forms. The 'eye of the beholder' may guide us where to look but that is not proof," Schultz advised.

Schultz explained that astronomer Percival Lowell, a keen observer who, in the late 1880s into the early 1900s, advocated that Mars was a populated world, once ironically said: "So easily are we the dupes of our own prejudice."

((( See, we are just nuts again. We are the fools to even consider looking at a fossil candidate on Mars. How presumptuous of us to think that a science degree from various public and private U.S. universities could come close to preparing us to recognize a fossil candidate. We should have known that the real qualifier for that special knowledge and talent is a government or government contractors' paycheck and an official working relationship with NASA.

NASA and the scientists interviewed in this article are highly conflicted. There has to be a term in the field of psychoanalysis describing the condition of thought that says on one hand,

"Let's go to Mars to see if we can discover:
(1) whether or not conditions ever existed to harbor life, and
(2) whether or not life actually existed or still exists.

We will design experiments and build the instruments necessary to conduct the experiments to determine these questions."

Then on the other hand the same person or group refuses to even consider the evidence returned from their own instruments and a refusal to even look at their own images. They ignore detections of possible past life in the form of fossil candidates, imaged by Opportunity, and current life in the form of microbes detected by the Viking LR experiment! If that isn't a mental and mission conflict, then, "Scotty, beam up Traficant. We're getting outta here."

And there has to be something very wrong with a publication devoted to 'science' that launches attack pieces against people who are drawing attention to the very things on Mars for which NASA 'says' it is looking.

Space.com does a one two punch. Both punches are political rather than scientific.

Punch one launches a personal attack against the people pointing these fossil candidates out. Punch two is more complex. It argues the following points:

(1) we should look for fossils on Mars,
(2) finding fossils on Mars, if they exist, will be very difficult if not impossible,
(3) we probably won't be able to identify a fossil on Mars even if we find one,
(4) anyone saying they have found one or a candidate for one is expressing unscientific prejudice, and
(5) we need the NEXT mission to resolve this question.

Even though the publication runs dozens of images and articles each day, it refuses to run the image of the fossil candidate and reprint a scholarly scientific paper describing a good potential fossil candidate!

In this context, it is clear that Lowell's comment, "So easily are we the dupes of our own prejudice," is NOT referring to the many people drawing attention to a potential fossil that literally leaps out from a rocky ledge on Mars. Instead, Lowell is describing the extreme dogma and prejudices within NASA, JPL and, evidently, at Space.com -- compelling them to not even consider NASA's own data returns! I would urge these entities to revisit the Galileo event, least they repeat the error of arrogant authority and the encounter the public and professional humiliation of refusing to look through their own 'telescope.' )))

"This certainly is true for what we think we may see in these unprecedented close-up views of Mars [provided by the rovers]. Science requires testing and proving, not simply suggesting," Schultz concluded.

((( 'Testing and proving' are hard to do when you grind the fossil candidate to dust in one fell swoop. Add to this, the official refusal to even publish the photo and papers advocating its consideration as a possible fossil, and one is left bewildered by the direct contradiction between the Schultz statement and the actions of the rover team concerning this fossil candidate.

When it comes to the detection of life, past or present, beyond Earth, NASA and its clergy spout dogma and rhetoric as opposed to conducting science. The 'search for life' appears to be used solely as a carrot to entice the American taxpayer continually to fund "the NEXT mission."

Science is observation and experiment, not the destruction of evidence followed by post-destruction denial that it ever existed. That is dogma at best. )))

Recognizable patterns

The identification of fossils is often difficult, explained Ron Greeley, Mars Exploration Rover team scientist from Arizona State University in Tempe, even by scientists observing them with the full spectrum of lab instruments.

((( Who is this article written for, dead cavemen? This fossil candidate is not difficult to see. In fact, it is so obvious that any life 'scientist' at NASA -- like Dr. Andrew Knoll, of Harvard, the only official 'paleontologist' on the entire rover team -- who looked at it and didn't say, "Hey, what's that!?" is 'qualifications suspect.' )))

"Remember that fossils are defined as the traces -- such as leaf imprints in rocks, or the remains, such as shells or bones -- of formerly living organisms. Typically, recognizable patterns are sought, such as bilateral symmetry," Greeley told SPACE.com . "Unfortunately, similar patterns often occur in rocks that result from non-biological processes, which make the identification more difficult."

((( In other words, if you've seen the picture of the fossil, don’t trust your eyes. In fact, it's very possible you will never be able to recognize another fossil in your life unless we, the gods of NASA, confirm it for you. )))

On Mars, Greeley said, there is no reason to expect the same patterns as fossils that are seen on Earth. Nonetheless, patterns of some sort are being formulated by the astrobiological community -- so-called biomarkers -- in the on-going search for life elsewhere. Furthermore, while the Athena science gear onboard the two Mars rover are great assets, "analyzing patterns and other features remotely is not so easy," he added.

For Greeley, Mars fossil hunting has a bottom line: Unless something really obvious pops out in the images and/or other information, "it's going to take a while to sift through the data and derive some clear answer."

((( Something obvious HAS popped out and it's also obvious that NASA and Space.com are trying really hard not to look through the microscopic imager! The fossil like appearance is SO obvious, that they really don't want to show it to you because if they did, you would see how obvious it is for yourself. They are, in effect, telling you, the reader, they don't trust you to be able to judge this image for yourself. Now who's the paranoid ones? Galileo, say it isn't so... )))

There is a lot of interest in trying to see fossils in the Mars rover images, Greeley said. "The team is looking at the data fairly rigorously, but nothing has emerged along these lines."

((( The ‘team’ Greeley speaks of must be the Life Detected Containment Team <LDCT>. Any team of objective biologists or paleontologists searching for signs of past or current life would by now be yelling at the top of their lungs between jumps in the air, “Hey, what’s that?!" )))

Preserved in stone

Prior to 21st century astronauts putting foot and exploration flag down on Mars, there is much that can be done remotely. Future on-the-surface rovers are already being designed, profoundly more capable than the golf cart-sized Spirit and Opportunity.

"Ultimately, it will take sample return of any putative 'fossils' to convince the scientists of the world. But we can tell a lot in situ (on-the-spot) before such a time," said James Garvin NASA (news - web sites) Lead Scientist for Mars and Lunar Exploration in the Office of Space Science at the space agency's headquarters in Washington, D.C.

((( You see, for NASA to confirm life, past or present, it's always the NEXT mission. James Garvin has credentials and a government paycheck. He’s official, so he is the authority. Leave it to the clergy of the New Official Church Of Science to tell us what we don’t see with our own eyes. When he says, 'scientists,' he means, 'officially sanctioned and ordained scientists.' Most of these are usually on the government payroll either directly or indirectly.

“The American public has … been heavily indoctrinated to trust authority, and scientific authority in particular. Psychology experiments have shown that people will often trust the word of authority figures over their own eyes, particularly when confronted with phenomena outside their experience.”
-- Terry Hansen -- )))

Garvin, a long-time fossil hunter himself, cautioned about the definition of the word.

((( Oh, now WE might even be confused about the word 'fossil.' This article belongs in the fourth grade of a failing government indoctrination center, not an adult science publication. Such is the sorry state of our 'educated' public at the beginning of the twenty first century that many will buy this article as the authoritative word that no fossil candidate has been found on Mars. )))

Fossils come in many varieties, Garvin advised, from the micro- and nano-fossils of single-celled primitive microbes, to preserved-in-stone bones of organisms as big as automobiles.

((( How about as big as a football field? We have fossils on earth as big as a greyhound bus. Or is that T-Rex at the entrance to the Denver Museum of Natural History fake? Why couldn't some fossils be as big as a football field on other planets -- particularly those with much less gravity, like Mars ...? )))

"Searching for fossils also comes in many flavors, from microscopic siftings through tiny grains, to overland reconnaissance for suitable bedding settings to uncover bones," Garvin said.

Microscopic to macroscopic

Assuming that Mars rover data confirms the existence of sedimentary systems of rocks on Mars, searching for fossils can then take many forms, Garvin related. "One would involve the recognition that depositional environments were interrupted and that they are preserved at scales ranging from microscopic to macroscopic."

On Earth, such "preservational" environments are almost always sedimentary, but can include volcanic and impact 'sedimentary' environments.

"So, if the kind of putative sedimentary deposits we have identified on Mars from orbit are validated, then we can gainfully start our first searches for at least indirect, morphological (form and structure of plants and animals) signs of life in such localities," Garvin suggested.

((( After reading this, I’m not sure the Mars rovers are capable of determining signs of life if a MacDonald’s Happy Meal sack blew by.

I really wonder how NASA expects to validate 'putative sedimentary deposits' from orbit when it can't get the colors right even with the aid of a color chart and extensive Earth-based testing. NASA wants to validate 'putative sedimentary deposits' from orbit but it destroys, without as much as a second thought, a fossil candidate within inches of a rover's camera. It's getting warm in here. I'd say the temp is about 451 Fahrenheit. )))

However, expecting fossil formation to operate on Mars the same way as it does on Earth is not a sure bet, Garvin pointed out.

((( Wait. This is very important. Garvin is telling us that even the basic laws of geology and physics could be radically – unrecognizably -- different on Mars, so different that we cannot trust that something ‘looking’ like a ‘fossil’ really is a fossil …on Mars. But, if this is the case, then how has NASA reached any valid scientific conclusions about anything its discovered …‘out there’ -- including its recent flat assertion that there are ‘no indications of past or present life?!’ They can’t have it both ways -- simultaneously. )))

Nooks and crannies

The recent finding by the Opportunity Mars rover of a very high concentration of sulfur in the rock outcrop at Meridiani Planum bodes well for biology and fossil hunting. The chemical form of this sulfur appears to be in magnesium, iron or other sulfate salts

Moreover, Mars is rich in landscape where vestiges of life may be found.

"My overall fossil-hunting bias is heavily weighted to natural caves and fissures and overhangs," said Penelope Boston, Director, Cave and Karst Studies Program at New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in Socorro, New Mexico. "I know from personal experience how these environments serve as both original home for organisms and as great places to preserve the evidence," she said.

"I'm particularly excited about the sulfate results because so much of the material we are looking at is in sulfur rich caves where gypsum and other sulfate minerals play a huge role in the biology and the subsequent preservation of traces of that biology," Boston observed.

Along with caves, Boston said some top-notch nooks and crannies on Earth to look for fossils are in things with vertical relief that slices down through layers, like canyon walls, fault escarpments, and river/stream outflow channels. For Mars and other crater-rich environments, obviously crater walls where things are excavated down to some deeper strata are first-rate sites.

"The best thing about these places is that large -- as in macroscopic -- buried fossilized material is usually weathering out of the outcrops. One can see them laying about and follow the fragments to the source," Boston said. "For microscopic fossils, of course, no clear obvious clues are usually present. The exception is large scale microbial mats like those that made stromatolites and algal travertiles and tufa."

Happy hunting ground

Thanks to picture-taking Mars orbiters, snapshots of Newton Basin on Mars reveal it to be a site where ponded standing water appears to have been present, Boston said. That landscape feature is a great place to look for significant sedimentary rocks, "not to mention Martian critter remains," she added.

"That kind of a no-doubt-about-it pond with minimal shallow excavation could be a goldmine of microfossil material! I'd want to sample its beautiful rims...and do a small core down through the middle somewhere," Boston explained.

Another promising happy hunting ground for biologists on Mars may be in the cracks within so-called patterned ground or polygonal terrain.

((( How about the rocky ledge where NASA destroyed the first fossil candidate? I would say that rocky ledge should be prime target number one. )))

"On Earth, the bottoms of these cracks can house organisms in a much more pleasant environment than the surface at large. Obviously, if such communities thrive or thrived on Mars, some of the evidence may well be at the bottom of these cracks," Boston said. "We have much imaging evidence of these terrains on Mars for comparison to the similar terrains here on Earth, not just at the poles but many other high latitude and high altitude places."

Place your bets

So far there have been no shouts of "eureka!" from Mars rover scientists spotting a signature of past or present life.

((( That’s because these are political scientists, or spineless scientists intimidated and fearful of shouting "eureka." These people are under orders and standing policies. Some are on the government ‘keep you mouth shut’ payroll, while others are constrained by peer pressure to stick to the dogma that has been crumbling around their feet for decades. )))

"I flat out see no evidence for any fossils in our data," said Jim Rice, a Mars Exploration Rover team scientist and a planetary geologist from Arizona State University in Tempe. "If a trilobite, for example, evolved on Mars and we came across a rock with it, we could resolve it."

((( Rice could 'resolve' a trilobite on Mars, but not a Crinoid!!! Somebody hold me back! Take this club out of my hands! Someone please calm down my friend, Galileo.

Rice, doesn't have the scientific integrity or courage to contact Richard C. Hoagland. If Rice is unaware of MER Opportunity microscopic imager :: Sol 034, then his statements in Space.com are uninformed. If he is aware of the images, then he is deceitful. These images are on the JPL website, Dr. Rice, at
http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/all/opportunity_m034.html .

Have a look at image

Just look though the microscope that 21st century technology and the hard working American taxpayers have provided you, Dr. Rice. Then tell me "flat out," that you "see no evidence for any fossils," in that specific image. Now access Richard C. Hoagland's paper on this fossil candidate for comparisons to terrestrial Crinoids here...

Someone help Galileo back to his chair. Could someone please turn down the heat? It's hot enough in here to burn a book. )))

Rice noted that the twin Mars rover's each carry a Microscopic Imager. It has a resolution of 30 microns per pixel. That device, however, has the ability to only see objects that are about 100 microns across and above, he added.

"Fossil finding will be a very difficult job on Mars. I don't think robotic missions will do it," Rice said. "It will take astronauts and even then it will be a tough job," he said.

((( Right... The NEXT mission... I don't know why we are sending these robots up there. They can't get the color right. They goof up and return positives on life detection experiments. They image these really weird things at gross resolutions; unable to retarget them at 1.3 meter resolutions. That very special resolution capability seems to be reserved for everything that isn't out of the ordinary. See Note (2). )))

And that job ahead most likely means drilling and cracking a lot of rocks open. On Earth, Rice added, even when you go to a known fossil field location it still requires work to find them.

((( It’s my recollection that many amazing dinosaur fossils have been found simply lying on the ground or sticking up out of the ground. But I’m sure I need an official government paid scientician to confirm that for me. )))

"We are a lot farther along in the game now that we have identified a rock outcrop on Mars that involved liquid water. We still have much to learn about where to go for any future fossil hunting on Mars."

((( How about sticking with the rocky outcrop? Fossils are like deer about to jump in front of your truck. Where there's one, there's at least two. Slow down and look around. Turn that grinder into a cutting pick and hammer and do some really challenging steering and some really exciting fossil hunting. But, no, we’re about to leave this –now demonstrated — scientifically unique rocky outcrop in ‘Eagle Crater’ ... and drive thousands of feet across this Martian plain to an even larger crater, in hopes of finding ‘something scientifically more interesting.’ Which, given what has happened, NASA is just as likely to destroy – either by design … or ignorance. )))

"It will be sheer luck if robots discover conclusive evidence for fossils on Mars," Rice said, making the point: "I am putting my bets on astronauts."

((( You can count your lucky stars, Dr. Rice, because the MER robot Opportunity has imaged a credible fossil candidate. You only have to look at it. Space.com could print it along with the Hoagland paper, but that would be open, and objective science conflicting with the internal policies, rituals and dogma of the New Church of Official Science.

Dr. Rice, I'm sure you and your family would benefit nicely from such a nationally funded program to send humans to Mars, but, quite frankly, I'm about taxed out. The thought of paying for your mortgage doesn't thrill me when I consider that we, the American taxpayers, have already paid for the NEXT missions that are on and orbiting Mars now and that are returning science you are ignoring. You and your scientician cohorts at NASA are refusing to consider data when indications of life, past or present, are clearly detected by both experiment and image.

Science, Dr. Rice. You and NASA should try it sometime. )))

Copyright © 2004 SPACE.com

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(1) Regarding the rendering of colors on Mars:

"To calibrate Mars' colors, the twin Spirit and Opportunity rovers rely on a small color-coded key carried on their backs. This square 'Mars dial' displays in each corner a chip, similar to a paint store's color sample, of known shades of red, green, blue or yellow.
... Each dial, known as a calibration target, also contains three concentric rings in varying shades of gray, which allows scientists to understand what Mars' black-and-white tones should look like.
The entire target "is essentially a photographer's color chart," said Jim Bell of Cornell University, lead scientist for Pancam, the panoramic camera aboard each rover.
Before the rovers went to Mars, each Pancam photographed the calibration targets again and again, working to understand how different lighting, dust or other conditions could affect the appearance of Martian colors."
-- "'Mars red' is open to interpretation," By Alexandra Witze, The Dallas Morning News, February 22, 2004 --

Incredibly, after all this time and expense, NASA comes right out and says all that effort and taxpayer money is wasted because color is beyond our rocket science to render accurately!

"What Mars looks like is very much in the eye of the beholder."
-- Michael Malin, Malin Space Science Systems, 'Mars red' is open to interpretation, The Dallas Morning News, February 22, 2004 --

"No one can say for certain what color Mars is. ... No two people see color — and no two computer monitors display color — in precisely the same way."
-- Alexandra Witze, 'Mars red' is open to interpretation, The Dallas Morning News, February 22, 2004 --

"... There was no reason for the Spirit to see pink on Mars. When producing the panorama ... "We just made a mistake. It's really just a mess-up."
-- James Bell, the lead scientist for the camera Spirit rover, "How did the red planet turn pink?" by Kenneth Chang, New York Times, February 12, 2004 "

"... Even the color chips placed on the rover to calibrate the color photographs had shifted. What should be bright blue is instead bright pink; what should be bright green is brown."
-- "How did the red planet turn pink?" by Kenneth Chang, New York Times, February 12, 2004 --

So at least we have identified an area of the space budget we can cut back without impacting objective, factual science. If accurately rendering colors on Mars is beyond our science, let's cut all the color related equipment and activity from the materials and to-do lists.

It is my understanding this color issue will be revisited by the Enterprise Mission with updated material in the near future.

(2) Regarding the NEXT mission:

Let me quote from my article, "NASA Running Scared: Shooting the Messenger," at
http://www.enterprisemission.com/messenger.htm in which I said,

"NASA always holds out the promise that the next mission might reveal that life once existed on Mars ... Dr. Gil Levin's LR team answered that question in 1976 with their life detection experiment aboard Viking.

"It's hard to imagine why such bullet-proof evidence was denied for such a long time, and why those so vigorously denying it never did so by meeting the science, but merely by brushing it away. Of course, now that it must be acknowledged by all that there is liquid water on the surface of Mars, this starts those denying the validity of the Mars LR data down the slippery slope leading to life."
-- Dr. Gil Levin, Chief Project Scientist on the Viking Labeled Release Experiment

"Every time our Mars landers and orbiters find evidence of previous life or current life, the discovery is dismissed with the wave of a hand, not science ... For NASA and its contractors, it's always the NEXT mission, the NEXT round of appropriations of taxpayer dollars that might yield the great discovery.

"I submit that the next mission is not needed. All we need to do is utilize the current missions. From our orbiters: retarget those areas of exceptional interest for a high-res, multiple angle look. From our rovers: more fossil hunting and water-table digging. Let's inspect the undersides of those rocks a bit closer."

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