NOTE: Due to an unforeseen medical emergency, the Houston Enterprise Mission conference mentioned in a previous version of this article has been cancelled.

NASA Slams the Door on Scientific Democracy --
Chooses the "Country Club" Over the Country

Over the years, Enterprise researchers have been accused (falsely) of "avoiding" the peer review scientific process. Critics have pointed to a lack of published journal articles on the scientific investigations into Cydonia and the Face on Mars as some sort of "proof" that Enterprise principal investigator Richard C. Hoagland is unwilling to have his research exposed to the critical review process. Recently, a University of Washington mathematician has joined the chorus, accusing Hoagland of ignoring his argument that the Cydonia geometric alignment model is invalid (naturally, he continues to seek a "debate" on the issue only if it excludes the tetrahedral mound geometry, which renders his entire argument impotent). The reality of course is somewhat, if not entirely, different than the claims made by these detractors.

Readers of "The Monuments of Mars," Hoagland's seminal work, and followers of the "Coast to Coast AM" show over the years will be well aware that Enterprise has always welcomed any fair review of our work. When Dr. Stanley McDaniel chose to review the Face on Mars controversy for his report, Enterprise and Hoagland were entirely cooperative. During the early years of the Mars anomaly investigations, Hoagland and the other members of these teams, The Independent Mars Investigation, The Mars Investigation Group, and The Mars Mission, had assumed that the peer review process was a fair and democratic one. They found out the hard way over the years that the process was anything but open to new ideas, no matter how compelling the data. As far back as 1981, when original Face researchers Vince Dipietro and Greg Molenaar tried to give a paper on their enhancements of the Face, it was clear that there was no room at the NASA Inn when it came to SETA (Search for Extraterrestrial Artifacts) research.

This trend continued over the years. In 1984, when Hoagland, John Brandenburg and the other members of the Independent Mars Investigation presented their findings at the "Case For Mars II" conference in Boulder, Colorado, they were allowed to give a poster presentation. However, when the conference proceedings (the official record for scientific citation) came out, the IMI paper had miraculously been expunged from the record  -- as if they were never there!

Imaging specialist Mark Carlotto had his papers on Cydonia rejected by major science journals. He eventually got them published in obscure optical journals after some coaching from Carl Sagan.

Later, Hoagland and Erol Torun attempted to have their paper on the Cydonia geometric alignment model published in peer reviewed journals. They were informed that they should not bother, since the subject matter of that paper, the Search for Extraterrestrial Artifacts (SETA), was not considered a legitimate field of scientific inquiry. Eventually, Hoagland and Torun uploaded "The Message of Cydonia" to the CompuServe Issues forum.

The reality is that the journalistic record showed that papers on SETA were in fact quite acceptable, as long as they produced a negative conclusion or were laid out as a general concept only. Apparently, it is only if the conclusion of the paper is that the artifacts in question are likely artificial that the subject matter becomes taboo.

Case in point, the upcoming Concepts and Approaches for Mars Exploration conference in Houston, Texas.

Despite our years of experience that led us to believe that the process is rigged and closed to anyone "outside the club," we decided to test NASA and take them at their word. The call for abstracts for the conference indicated that "The workshop is open to scientists, engineers, technologists, and other colleagues from academia, NASA centers, federal laboratories, the private sector, and international partners." By these broad categories, the conference was essentially open to anyone, although they also indicated that the conference would be "limited" to 185-200 participants.

We have smelled a rat from the beginning on this one. Despite the seeming openness of the invitation, previous experience had taught us not to expect a change in the political climate surrounding Mars. In this "year of disclosure" that we have talked about on many occasions, we have assumed that there would be many revelations about Mars. So far, we have not been disappointed. After the forced release of new Cydonia images by MSSS, and then the unceremonious dumping of 27,000 MGS images on the web last month, we have watched as our predicted ramping up of the Mars agenda has fallen into place. Yet we also knew that there was a deeper political agenda at work.

We saw this sudden dumping of the new images (still only one third of the images MGS has taken) as an attempt by MSSS/NASA to wash their hands of the Mars anomaly controversy. It was their hope that by doing this, they could create an aura of openness to allay the rising pressure of their congressional critics. But it was also clear from their initial press release, which practically served as a road map to the new artifacts, that they also hoped that someone in the "legitimate" scientific community would spot the plumbing and call attention to it.

By doing this, they had a "plausible deniability," at least to those in the press who do not follow these issues closely. They were hoping someone in the "club" (anyone but us) would declare the absolutely unambiguous nature of the tubes and get them off the hook. Malin and NASA could then declare "wow, look at that, we never saw it before!" -- and have their reason to go to Mars.

In this scenario, we have assumed for some time that anything short of a "discovery" of artifacts (or life!) on Mars will probably not get NASA the dollars they need to go to Mars with a VERY expensive "manned" mission in the near time frame. But, equally certain, NASA is seeking to control such "discoveries," to channel them through academic networks that are totally dependent on NASA funding for their survival. When this did not happen (following the sudden release of the 27,000 Malin images), when the abstracts submitted to this official NASA Houston Mars Conference did not meet the above criteria, Malin and NASA apparently went to plan "B" -- and leaked (sorry ...) the "water on Mars" news last week.

So it was with low expectations that we submitted an abstract of our proposed paper ("Analysis of Apparent Architectural Features on Mars") last month. When the list came out June 30th, it was not too surprising that we were not on it, even though the number of accepted abstracts fell significantly short of the 185 listed as the maximum number allowed (there were 180 accepted papers). There evidently just wasn't room for that 181st paper that would throw the whole notion of what Mars really is into disarray. Even more irritating than the fact that we were excluded, was just who was included in this list of "noted Mars scientists," and what their inclusion re the next phase of "Mars exploration" may represent.

Among those giving papers will be Louis Friedman, the Executive Director of Carl Sagan's Planetary Society. Monuments readers will remember Friedman as the guy who refused to look at images of Cydonia while attending a meeting with Sagan and John Brandenburg and David Webb of the The Mars Investigation Group. According to them, as Sagan continually remarked on the extraordinary nature of what he was seeing, including the Face, the Fort and the City, Friedman steadfastly refused to look at the images at all. In fact, at one point he hid his own face behind a stack of books to prevent himself from seeing the images of the Face! Sagan eventually gave up trying to get Friedman to look, and then told Brandeburg and Webb that he would deny the meeting took place if he were ever asked about it.

Another notable attendee is Steven Squyres, best known to Enterprise readers for plagiarizing Hoagland's work on Europa a few years ago. Given that at least one of the other conference participants is from the SETI group, the inclusion of Squyres seems interesting. Squyres has been at the forefront of the NASA Europa program lately, and seems to be the designated golden boy for the official study of life there. We still maintain that MSSS/NASA are hoping that someone other than Enterprise will make an announcement regarding the anomalous nature of what's on these new (?) Mars images, and Squyres seems like the perfect candidate. And, unless the SETI attendee is giving a paper outside the SETI mandate (discovery of bonafide artifacts on Mars?!), it may be that Squyres is going to be the point man for this new "life on Mars" initiative, and be supported by other papers.

Certainly if this is the plan, making sure we are not anywhere near the conference would seem to be a top priority. However, we are not inclined to make things that easy on them.

We have no illusions that this will be an easy task. Resistance to what is on these stunning new images runs deep into the institutional mindset around NASA. One well known scientist who is involved in a project to search for extraterrestrial life has even resorted to the old "trick of light and shadow" argument when confronted with what is on these images. He recently sent us an e-mail insisting that if you only rotated the "saucer" image from MGS image AB108505 180, it altered the "optical illusion" that it was a domed object and magically turned it into a "crater." Ignoring the lighting and visual clues that prove this object is a  raised dome, not a depressed bowl, for a moment; just imagine what would happen to us if we tried to make such an argument. "Well, if you rotate it 180 and twist your head a certain way, it defeats the 'optical illusion' that it's not a Face." If we tried to make our case for artificiality of the Face on Mars based on such a stance, we be crucified!

But this kind of silly and ad hoc attempt to make everything fit with accepted view of Mars is perfectly OK if you're towing the company line. The only question is if these sorts of "explanations" are simply the product of a shell shocked planetary community or are truly meant to obscure the issues and buy time.

We have always maintained that the rank and file at NASA, wholly 99% of those involved in the various fields of inquiry, are truly honest. It just their leaders, the 1% at the top, who have rotted the space program from the inside and have the power to turn it into a hallow shell of what it should be. It is with these other 99% that our hopes lie. We must go over the heads of the agency and make our case directly to those at the grass roots of NASA. Yet again, we realize with them that we Face a daunting task.

Beyond the simple human tendency to resist change, we are also fighting on many other fronts. Many of the participants in this conference get funding through NASA, funding that makes their mortgage payments, car payments and feeds and clothes their children. They are not likely to easily accept ideas that not only threaten the flow of that lifeblood, but call into question the very competence and sincerity of the people who make up the institutions they are a part of. And all this done by independent researchers who are not even members of the "club!"

But in the end gentlemen, science is not about your car payments or research grants, or your credentials or pet theories. It's about the search for truth.

In the end, the truth must come out. Contrary to the charges frequently made against us, we are neither in this for the money (since there is none to be made) nor afraid of the peer review process. You can't have a "peer review" if you are not allowed to submit your work for that review. What we are going to ensure is that this review process takes place, by continuing to publish here the images that NASA seems determined not to acknowledge. That is the ultimate democratizing power of the web, and we are lucky to have it.