NOTE: Peter Nerbun of SPSR has revised his conclusions as of May 26th, 2000. 

Malin Points MGS at the Face --
But What is He Hiding?

There were yet further political developments this week in the ongoing saga of the latest Mars Global Surveyor images of Cydonia. After last week's stories appeared, SPSR orbital specialist Peter Nerbun published an analysis of the latest MSSS attempt to image the Face. What Nerbun found was that MGS had been pointed "off nadir"-- essentially rotated to take an image at an angle other than straight down -- during the Face imaging attempt on February 17th, 2000. Since MGS is a "nadir pointing" spacecraft and Malin's camera cannot be rotated, the entire spacecraft must be rotated in order to take an image of anything on the Martian surface that is not directly below the spacecraft. 

What Nerbun found was that on this particular Cydonia pass, (acknowledged by Malin as an effort to re-photograph the Face on Mars), the spacecraft, and hence the camera, had been rotated well beyond the normal 0.15 margin of error off nadir. In fact, the actual off nadir angle of 0.42 is nearly three times the average off nadir error in the spacecraft's orientation. What this means is that this was a deliberate targeting effort by Malin, rather than a fortunate opportunity to get another image of the Face.

Unfortunately, the image, M12-01787, was stopped after just a few lines had been recorded. According to MSSS the spacecraft experienced a sequencing error which resulted in the loss of the days data. There is of course no way to check this, given Malin's iron-fisted control over every aspect of MGS camera data acquisition and release.

While Malin has identified the failed image M12-01787 as an attempt to photograph the Face, we suspect he may have had another target in mind. The image strip starts just above what appeared in the Viking imagery to be a rather unremarkable knob that was not initially part of the artificiality investigation.

This odd "knob" between the D&M and the Face and just above a massive tetrahedral ruin, at first appeared to be an asymmetrical naturally eroded feature. However, in the new Face image from April, 1998, it became obvious that it was a symmetrical feature (about a roughly horizontal line of symmetry). Naturally occurring symmetrical features are rare in the solar system, except at Cydonia, where they seem to be in abundance. Given the pointing angle of the spacecraft, we think there is a good chance that this object as well as the western edge of the Face ridge may have been the target of this lost image. 

The western side of the Face mesa also has some areas of interest. In the Viking data there is a faint, high albedo feature positioned at 90 to the western edge which has the appearance of an earthen berm or ramp. The initial MGS image of the Face showed it in more detail, but the high noise ratio of the image made a positive identification of the feature difficult. It did seem to lead from the flatlands around the Face mesa directly up to the level of the dark edge of the Face platform.

Under further enhancement, there appears to be a circular depression, reminiscent of an entrance along this same edge. If the "ramp" truly does exist, then it would lead to a level along the base of the Face which would facilitate the use of this entrance.

Whatever Malin was truly targeting, the mere existence of this image is an important political development. Beyond the simple contradiction of Malin taking any images of Cydonia at all given his overt public hostility to the idea of there being anything of interest in the region, this now shows he has gone to considerable effort and expense to obtain them. As we documented last week, Malin has been taking a lot of images of Cydonia in secret while claiming he has no scientific interest in the area. We now find that he is willing to go far beyond merely taking images of convenient opportunity as MGS passes over Cydonia. He is willing to re-orient the spacecraft to target specific features.

He cannot do this alone. While Malin has total control over the imaging sequences of the MGS camera, he has no say in how the spacecraft is oriented to acquire those images. In order for him to have even attempted to acquire M12-01787, he would have had to submit his request through channels at JPL and have the approval of project managers to spend the money to have the commands worked up and then transmitted to the spacecraft. An off-nadir image of this sort involves a fairly convoluted dance between Malin, mission planners at JPL and the uplink dishes required to send the orders to control the "momentum wheels" which actually reorient the spacecraft. In other words, this image at least, which by MSSS' own admission was targeted at the Face, had the full knowledge and approval of JPL. Of course, we in the general public had no foreknowledge or warning of this attempt.

These sort of off-nadir images are the same type he was (supposedly) "forced" by NASA to take of the Face and City back in April 1998. Since then, Malin has made a considerable effort to spread the idea that he considered these images to be a waste of time and his precious research dollars. In an interview in the September, 1999 issue of Air and Space Smithsonian magazine, Malin complained bitterly about being forced to take the previous Cydonia images and gave the impression that he would not do so again;

"...his least favorites (images) are the ones NASA ordered him to take of the so-called Face on Mars ... According to Malin, it cost $400,000 to take the new pictures. There were other targets that could have been viewed on that same orbit, including volcanoes on Elysium that would not likely come into view again. 'Does the government spend money on ghost research?' Malin asks. 'Or the Loch Ness monster? Or the lost continent of Atlantis? I think the Face was a kind of stupid thing to spend money on.'"

The obvious logical contradiction in these statements is the fact that he indeed has been spending money, at least $400,000 of it by his own count, on taking pictures of the Face on Mars. If the Face is a "stupid thing to spend money on," then why is he doing it? And further, if, as implied in the article, the MGS camera can only store one image per orbit (at maximum resolution), why has he been so busy taking so many images of Cydonia at all? Aren't there much more interesting objects to take pictures of elsewhere on Mars? If you believe Malin's public protestations, there certainly are.

The truth is painfully obvious for our critics. Either Malin is being forced, by his JPL/Intelligence agency masters, to take these secret images of Cydonia that he does not want to take, or, he is simply a bald faced liar when he feigns no scientific interest in the Face and other Cydonia anomalies. 

Actually, we here at Enterprise tend to think that the real truth is a little bit of both. As we have clearly established -- thanks to Dan Goldin -- MGS and all JPL operations are under the control of some very major spooks. And Malin has certainly shown that he is well aware of what's "down there" at Cydonia. So much so in fact, that he has gone to great lengths to continue to cover it up.

From the get go, we have been suspicious of the tracking of some of the Cydonia images, especially those over the Fort. Two of the new images MO3-04566 and MO4-01903, were so close as to be virtually right on top of each other. The chances of two orbital passes taken more than a month apart being that close seemed remote. Indeed, when the other new Fort image MO9-05394 was factored into the equation, we got very concerned. As it turns out, it is not impossible for this to have occurred, but the exercise of questioning what we were getting combined with Malin's less than stellar track record on these issues led to look at other aspects of these new images.

We checked once again with Peter Nerbun, and he concurred that the orbital tracks as given were plausible, but then he added some other information which correlated with our own suspicions.

"What I do find interesting is that the number of pixels for each line in M04-01903 is only 768. Even more interesting is that M09-05394 contains only 512 pixels per line. If you look at the width of the rectangle for M09-05394 in Fig. 2 at:
it appears much wider than 512 pixels. Compare that width with the width of rectangle M03-04566 which is given as 1,024 pixels. Note that that rectangle appears to have approximately the same width as M09-05394 even though it contains twice as many pixels per line.
Unless I'm missing something it would appear that either the image strips are not drawn to scale properly or that there is an error in the Line Samples column of their ancillary data table."

What this statement is, in effect, is a nice way of pointing out there are some major problems with some of Malin's new data. Examining the image strips in the map above and comparing them with the actual images shows that they do indeed represent an accurate accounting of the width of the pictures. At least one of the images, MO9-05394, would appear to contain far less resolution than could be expected. 

How can this be? How can two images of the same width, over essentially the same real estate, have on the order of 50% less data from one to the other?

They can't. 

At maximum resolution, the MGS camera can return images of 2048 pixels wide, which works out to a resolution of 1.5 meters per pixel at the nominal spacecraft altitude of 234 miles above the planets surface. Yet one of these Fort images, M09-05394, actually has a resolution of 6 meters per pixel (at the given width of 512 pixels per line). What this means is that somehow, somewhere, the resolution for this image has been reduced (from optimal) by a factor of four. Even if Malin claims, as he did when the first Cydonia images were taken back in April, 1998, that the lost resolution is due to his desire to get a longer image strip, there is still some 50% of the data missing from this image.

So where did it go? One explanation is that contrary to the stated NASA/Malin policy of not taking off nadir imaging, this image could have been taken off nadir. Depending on the orbital track, the greater the distance involved the lower the resolution. But the official MGS transcripts make it clear that this was not the case, they show that for image MO3-04566 and MO4-01903 the spacecraft co-ordinates were W 9.75 N 40.68 and W 9.77 N 40.82, respectively. For image strip MO9-05394, the coordinates were W 9.77 N 40.8, almost identical. If we for once take Malin at his word, then we are left with the inescapable conclusion that MO9-05394 has been deliberately "de-resed."

This would be in keeping with what Malin did back on the first Cydonia images. Using a variety of techniques, he succeeded in removing quite a bit of data from the image of the Face. (See; "Honey, I shrunk the Face!") But again, what could be down there that he would not want us to see?

As we have pointed out, we believe that there is a "Brookings" scenario underway with the release of these images. The "smoking guns" are being removed, but the other tell-tale signs of artificiality are being left in. This sort of timed release aspirin policy is slowly giving us more data to work with, while simultaneously preventing us from taking the issue "over the top." We got more evidence of this when we started to closely examine the images themselves.

This image, cropped from MO3-04566, illustrates the problem. Note how at the top of this ridge, there is exquisite boulder by boulder detail. Then, just below that, the level of detail drops off to nothing and the face of the ridge becomes a smooth, featureless wall. This is a typical example of "digital airbrushing," the somewhat careless removal of data from an image by using the surrounding colors to mask and smear a portion of the image. Notably, just below this obvious smear job is some sort of rectilinear lattice work, probably the partially exposed remnants of whatever Malin did not want us to see.

Malin has stated that as the sole owner of these images, the ones that you and I paid for with our tax dollars, he reserves the right to remove "artifacts" from MGS images. So we assume that this all comes down to ones interpretation of the term "artifacts." Malin  has consistently shown a complete disregard for the precepts of science and NASA policy to this point, so we hardly assume he will suddenly discover a newfound sense of honesty or openness. He has clearly been exposed as a charlatan, willing to circumvent the democratic process in order to keep the lid on information he has decided the rest of us do not deserve to have. What we must ask ourselves is just how much longer we are willing to let this go on.

Fortunately, there is something we can do. If the orbital plots are correct, MGS will pass over Cydonia again on Sunday, May the 7th, around 2:30 PM "Phoenix time," literally just as Richard C. Hoagland will be taking the stage for a seminar in that city. Although the ground track will be generally over the City, an off nadir adjustment of just 1.5 degrees would result in a basically straight overhead shot of the Face under the best lighting conditions we have ever had. This would be a perfect opportunity to finally force the issue with Malin and break the stranglehold on the truth that this arrogant, unscientific man has held for so many years. Given that this is also the last week on the air for our friend Art Bell, it would be a fitting send off to once again call, fax and e-mail Dan Goldin and John McCain and insist that we get a chance to use "our" space probe. And this time, no nine month delay's before we get the images. No 50% reduction in resolution or closed camera shutters to strip the data out. Let's insist the picture be released immediately upon receipt at MSSS. After all, if he's willing spend $400,000 to get a secret picture of the Face, he can certainly fork over the few hours of overtime to post the raw image promptly.

And it's the least we can do for our old friend Art.

John McCain 202-228-2862 
Email: [email protected] 
NASA (Dan Goldin) 202-358-2810 
ABC (Ted Koppel) 202-222-7976 
ABC (Ted Koppel) 202-222-7680 
CNN 404-681-3578 
White House 202-456-2461 
Pat Buchanan 703-734-2705 
Libertarian Party 202-333-0072 
Capital Hill 202-224-3132 (Ask for Senators Fax Number)