“Letters” From Mars?: Pictographs From
 the Edge of Reality … and the Ethics of Deceit

By Mike Bara

In another overtly political move, timed to coincide with the disastrous SPSR (The Society for Planetary SETI Research) “press conference” in Washington DC on April 5th, 2001, and the third anniversary of the infamous MGS “Catbox” image in 1998, Malin Space Science Systems’ “Fuehrer” Michael Malin has just turned loose another batch of 10,230 hi-resolution Mars images to the Internet. Included in this release (would “escaped” be a better description?) are three more images taken in and around the portion of Cydonia which includes the Face and other artifacts. Unfortunately, Malin seems to have all the accuracy of one of those Storm troopers from the “Star Wars” movies; he has managed only to get another partial image of the Face, but just miss (again) the most crucial section of the Monument -- the entire Eastern half. This image, if he could only shoot straight, would put the question of “artificiality” to rest once and for all – by showing us (in conjunction with his previous efforts) the entire structure in one composite frame … which is why, of course, he just can’t seem to get it right…

MGS image M1400709 (see below) is similar to another image released earlier this year, in that it targets the Face … but manages to get only a partial swath of a portion that we have already clearly seen: in this case, the Eastern edge or “platform.” The only major difference is that the latest has a resolution of about 6.18 meters per pixel, compared to the much better 1.7 meters per pixel of that earlier frame, M16-00184.

Not that it would have made much difference.

Somehow, the man who seems able to target objects like the “Cliff” (which is narrower than the Face) with pinpoint accuracy, just “keeps missing” this most crucial piece of Cydonian real estate – the Face itself. A clear shot of the Eastern half is crucial in order to determine if the Face is symmetrical or if it has a feline aspect -- as suggested several years ago at the UN by Enterprise principal investigator, Richard C. Hoagland.  (Inside JPL sources have, in fact, confirmed to Hoagland that the Eastern side of the Face does possess this puzzling “feline” aspect – which would explain Malin’s obvious reluctance to publish the damn picture and “just get it over with.”)

This has gotten tiresome.

We now have three (one complete, plus two partial) images of “the Face on Mars” from Mars Global Surveyor, and none of them is of sufficient resolution or framed well enough to allow us to declare an end to this debate. When you lay the new image swaths over the ortho-rectified Mark Kelly version of the 1998 Face image (see below), it becomes plainly obvious what the game is: Malin is “playing footsie” with us, teasing and tantalizing us and arrogantly holding back just the images he knows will end the debate once and for all … in overwhelming favor of “artificiality.” For, without a clear shot of the Eastern half, or even a lower resolution image of the entire Face from a full overhead view, this issue will never be settled in the minds of most observers – including the so-called “anomalist” crowd itself. Which is, of course, Malin’s ultimate agenda.

Ortho-rectified Face image with partial image swaths overlaid

Certainly, if he has had so many “near misses” as he tries to target this controversial object at Cydonia (besides the three images we do have, he has had another complete miss and one “transmission error”), nobody can say he “wasn’t earnestly trying,” right? After all, it’s really hard “to point that damn camera to get a good picture of something as ‘small’ as the Face” … isn’t it?


As we have established before -- and as his recent pin-point targeting of the Cliff amply demonstrates -- Malin can get pictures of anything he wants on Mars, with ease. He has hidden behind the lame notion that “the Face is difficult to target” for years, even though he is well aware that anyone who checks the published operational parameters of the spacecraft and his targeting software now knows that this excuse is total “bunk” (a technical term for another well-known “b” word …). So, he does this pretty little “veil dance” with the public, knowing that reporters are just too dumb (!) to figure out what he’s really doing, and that certain “serious Cydonia researchers” will do everything they can to give him the political air cover he needs to pull it off.

As long as he has members of the so-called “Cydonia research community” willing to make apologies and excuses for him at every turn, Malin will never give us “the goods” on Cydonia and its central, crucial Monument (or on anything else artificial on Mars, for that matter). While the SPSR crowd tries desperately to hang on to their increasingly transparent “honest-but-stupid” model of literally decades of NASA/JPL duplicitous behavior (meticulously documented by “one of their own,” until he mysteriously “recanted” after a meeting at NASA HQ), Malin arrogantly laughs in their Face and makes money off their gullibility -- with blatantly commercial items like his infamous “In Your Face” mugs.

SPSR’s staunch refusal to accept the obvious -- that NASA and JPL are never going to “come clean” about Cydonia until they are politically forced to -- has to this point simply been an annoyance to those of us who are actually committed to resolving this issue. They have steadfastly held to an increasingly indefensible position that the issues around Cydonia are simply some kind of abstract “academic debate,” rather than what they really are—

An all out socio-political war for the literal soul of the human race.

This absurd refusal to acknowledge that JPL’s resistance to getting good images of the Face is rooted in a deep imperative to maintain control -- political control -- over public reaction to the “unthinkable reality” of artificial structures on Mars, has led SPSR to fiercely defend positions that have become laughable in the Face of NASA’s increasingly contemptuous public behavior vis-à-vis Cydonia.

They actually seem to think it was their clandestine meeting with Carl Pilcher in November of 1997 -- rather than the highly visible, nationwide phone and Fax campaign to Goldin in March, 1998 -- led by Art Bell and Enterprise -- that forced the April, 1998 Cydonia images. They never mention the efforts of Bell and Enterprise principal investigator Richard C. Hoagland in any of their articles. Yet, the “cause and effect” for this breakthrough are plainly obvious, as they were two years later … when Mike Siegel and Hoagland successfully repeated the exercise by involving presidential candidate John McCain. The “coincidental” result, just days later: 30,000 previously withheld images (and 30,00 more within a few more weeks), suddenly dumped without warning onto the public. Where had they been for all those previous years, before Siegel and Hoagland waged a major, successful political campaign to “spring” them?

But, in terms of the initial 1998 imaging, SPSR has rigidly maintained for three years their “we were really the power that shook the Cydonia data loose, because of our key NASA contacts,” even though NASA later downplayed the whole 1997 meeting, saying that they “just took the meeting to get SPSR to stop bothering them.”

And SPSR continues, in the Face of even more overt evidence of the most blatant and damaging cover-up to date -- the so-called “Catbox” image, which effectively turned off all further interest in Cydonia by the mainstream press -- to assign the most benign motive to Malin’s duplicitous behavior around its acquisition, if not his subsequent highly suspicious withholding of it from any public view for a full 36 hours. SPSR’s semi-official position is that yes, the Catbox image was deliberately debased, but it was only done by JPL to “protect their funding.” This dubious -- if not outright ridiculous – position, is based on the idea that admitting the truth about Cydonia would inevitably result in a manned mission to Mars, and in such a venture JPL would be “out of the funding loop.” They cite the Apollo program (and the cessation of the unmanned lunar probes a few years before) as a stark example of how this would come to pass, then point to the lack of unmanned lunar missions after Apollo as the clincher ...

Except of course, their notion of history is demonstrably wrong.

The simple fact of the matter is that the Ranger, Surveyor and Lunar Orbiter programs were not run independently of the manned program at NASA, but to support it. Their sole function (after Apollo was announced) was to map and examine the lunar surface to prepare for the manned landings a few years later. The commitment to a manned Mars program would be the best thing that ever happened to JPL!; they’d have more work than they could handle, sending probe after probe to map the Martian surface (as much land area as all the continents of Earth combined!) to pave the way safely for the manned landings, just as they did in the heady days of Apollo.

And the notion that somehow “JPL stopped sending probes out” after Apollo, is just insipid. Have any of these people ever heard of the “Pioneer … Mariner … Viking … or Voyager programs .?!”

The point is that the SPSR crowd will do anything to avoid admitting the truth -- that JPL is deliberately covering up the evidence of “artifacts on the surface of Mars.” To do that would be to admit that ours -- and not theirs -- was the correct model for the motives behind NASA’s 20 years of aberrant behavior via a vis-à-vis Cydonia. And that, apparently, is politically impossible.

The question is “why?” What really happened at that key November, 1997 meeting -- to cause SPSR to become full time apologists for NASA's continuing deceitful acts? Why did members of that group suddenly stop talking to us at all -- after years of cordial relationships (despite our differences on certain issues) -- and then begin to behave (publicly) as if we simply never existed in the first place!? Why did McDaniel, the erstwhile head of SPSR, suddenly reverse himself on years of his own meticulously documented research, and suddenly totally reject the notion that NASA “has anything to hide?” Did “promises” made at that meeting have anything to do with McDaniel's equally dramatic drop from public view (amid rumored “personal difficulties”) almost immediately after the release of the intensely controversial “Catbox” image? And, what about his subsequent “retirement” from the pursuit of all further Cydonia research? Were he (and the others in that meeting) promised “something” -- if he’d simply change his tune … which, after three years and counting … simply still has not come true?  Like -- honesty from NASA/JPL!?

Frankly, since we weren't at that meeting, we don't know what was said and promised, or to whom. What we do know is that the “new” SPSR leadership seems intent on inserting itself head long into our professional territory -- the political arena ... and still seems bent on “covering” at any cost for NASA/JPL.

SPSR Wimps Out - The Sequel

We’re talking here specifically about the astonishing, April 5th, 2001 press conference by SPSR’s Dr. Tom Van Flandern.

As noted before, held last Thursday to coincide with the Third Anniversary of the 1998 Malin Face disaster, Van Flandern’s amateurish, equally disastrous solo performance at his grandstanding April 5th event (can it really be a “press conference” … if the “press” doesn’t show up?) may have set the Cause back by half a decade … or more. Fortunately, attendance by the media was about as robust as you would get at a banquet serving e-coli-contaminated beef! To any undecided members of the mainstream press who did wander in at the last minute, it would have been the death knell for any future hopes of getting Cydonia back on the table in a serious way. It was truly amateur night at the Washington Press Club. They should have considered holding it on another date synonymous for an unmitigated fiasco – December 7thPearl Harbor Day.

I imagine they partied deep into the night at JPL after this one…

Van Flandern spent nearly 90 minutes -- after paying for the room for two hours (at a cost of around $10,000!) -- droning on about various aspects of the Cydonia research that anyone who has heard him on the Art Bell show has heard many times before. Of course, since Van Flandern himself has only about three years of active participation in the problems of “Cydonia,” the presentation was built solidly on the work of other researchers – which, incredibly, for the most part he consistently failed to properly attribute.

By far the biggest “behind the scenes” contributor to this data pool that Van Flandern passed off as “his own,” was Enterprise Mission principal investigator, Richard C. Hoagland. Van Flandern’s monotonous “turn off” performance around this data was bad enough, but his use of our, in some cases, 20-years-worth of accumulated evidence and ideas -- without attribution anywhere, not even in the press notes! -- was simply unforgivable.

Despite the areas where we professionally agree -- certainly on Van Flandern’s seminal Exploded Planet Hypothesis -- the political rift around “artifacts on Mars” has now become too great to continue any kind of “close relationship,” certainly of the character that we thought existed before …

Some of you may recall an earlier article I wrote, after SPSR issued a request to NASA listing reasons for “acquiring 1998 Mars Global Surveyor Cydonia data.” In it, I lambasted SPSR for the timid, almost fearful way that they “begged” NASA/JPL to take more pictures of the Cydonia region. I also blasted them for using our data and hypotheses to make their points, while simultaneously pretending we didn’t exist. The fact that the same thing happened again, at Van Flandern’s April 5th “press conference,” is especially shameful; it was one thing for the self important snobs who inhabit SPSR to build on our work without acknowledging our priority, but for Tom – who has claimed to be “a friend and colleague,” and whose own ideas Richard has worked tirelessly to promote -- was just too much.

Quite frankly Tom, this is not the sort of thing that “friends,” or even “colleagues,” do to one another.

Considering that this is the same, consistently false accusation made by our enemies against us – that we literally “steal other people’s work” -- we ‘re obviously somewhat sensitive on the subject. To be completely fair, Van Flandern failed to mention most of the people whose data he used without credit besides ours. And, as I stated above, SPSR has made a habit of this where we ‘re concerned. But, this relative “equity” in Van Flandern’s blanket failure to make equally proper attribution, is no justification for it taking place!

The blatant, two-faced hypocrisy evident here is simply this:

The reason we are persona-non-grata with these self-described “serious Cydonia researchers” (the SPSR crowd) is because we advocate (gasp!) the “unscientific” idea that NASA/JPL “may be politically covering up data concerning Cydonia and other artifacts on Mars.” For these self-important “posers” simultaneously to pretend that they are “better than us,” because they “follow the rules” of scientific conduct, while they flagrantly break the first and most crucial of the scientists’ code of ethics -- that of proper attribution of others’ fundamental work -- is simply unacceptable.

The simple fact is that Van Flandern would have had very little to present during his “15 minutes” were it not for Richard Hoagland … and his almost twenty years of painstaking efforts at proving the existence of artifacts on Mars. A good dozen of the images and graphics presented by Van Flandern that morning were either given to him by Hoagland outright, or by people who were brought into the realm of Cydonia research directly by Hoagland. The press notes included a number of “peer reviewed” publications (even though some of them aren’t) by SPSR members, yet astonishingly completely failed to mention the virtual “bible” on the subject of the Face and Cydonia – Hoagland’s “The Monuments of Mars.

Over and over in his presentation, Van Flandern projected images and espoused ideas given to him across the years by Hoagland. From the crucial “Glass Tubes,” to the “Cydonia triangle,” to the “Arrow” and the “Crenulations,” he showed slides that were based not only on Hoagland’s prior published observations, but on his detailed, private analyses shared with Van Flandern as well. The obvious desire on Van Flandern’s part to avoid mentioning Hoagland’s name at all costs was so great, at one point, that when he showed a field of objects he referred to as “triangles,” he steadfastly refused to use the term that much more accurately describes them – tetrahedrons!

This “field of tetrahedra” is a prime example of the problem we present to SPSR (excellent analysis of these objects can be found at the “Marsology” web site). Van Flandern was well aware that using the term “tetrahedron” in connection with Mars is virtually synonymous with signing Hoagland’s name. But to admit to a recurring “tetrahedral model of the planet Mars” is tantamount to admitting that “Hoagland's Mars model” is potentially correct ... which, apparently, is politically incorrect for SPSR.

The double standard here is increasingly hard to fathom.

SPSR continues to pretend we don’t exist, because they feign “embarrassment” over the fact that we unabashedly advocate “conspiracy theories.” Yet they have no problem associating themselves with the buffoonish “former NASA astronaut” Dr. Brian O’Leary, who recently lent himself to the asinine Fox TV special “We Never Went to the Moon.” This absurd program, completely deconstructed by Hoagland, Steve Troy and myself in the series “Who Mourns for Apollo,” features SPSR member O’Leary (who is mentioned in the Van Flandern press notes on Cydonia, despite his minute contributions over the years to real Cydonia research) on screen – actually supporting the dopey arguments of the Moon Hoax advocates! Evidently, it’s just the conspiracy theories of non-members that SPSR finds “objectionable” ...

But in the end, it wasn’t what Van Flandern didn't show that demonstrated SPSR’s political tin ear; it’s what they did put in the presentation that demonstrated how truly “out of touch” with reality they are.

About 45 minutes into the presentation, Van Flandern finally publicly showed something we have known about – but have sat on, per Hoagland’s “gentlemen’s agreement” with Van Flandern, even though he independently found them himself -- for three years. The so-called “writing on the D&M.”

These startling enlargements (above) are taken from the original MGS Face image -- from the area near the bottom of the strip that covers the Northeastern quintile (like that?) of the five-sided D&M. SPSR’s official position is that these “symbols” are features embedded on the D&M pyramid itself! Since they steadfastly refuse to consider the alternative -- that these may have been placed on the image by someone at Malin’s lab, or even JPL -- they are forced into a totally absurd “scientific” position …

Let’s consider this for a minute. If these are really “letters” on the D&M, then that has all sorts of implications about “who” put them there. The first assumption must be that “Martians” -- three million years ago, at least -- used Hebrew-Arabic lettering in their ancient communications. And not only that, but they scrawled these modern English language letters on the D&M, like some sort of cosmic graffiti, just for us to find … literally millions of years later. And, these “symbols” just happened to be oriented on the Pyramid in such a way that they could be read without even having to rotate the image -- to make them appear right side up!

And we are the “untouchables” -- because of our bent toward “convoluted conspiracy theories?” Please!

A far more plausible -- and far less complex -- explanation is that somebody at MSSS or JPL simply put the letters there. From the beginning, we have alleged that the initial Face image in 1998 was tampered with. Even SPSR's own members are finally admitting -- three years after the fact -- that we were right. These letters -- which are obviously on the digital “original” image on the official NASA Websites -- were put on the D&M, an object of obvious interest to us, as a message. They are clearly meant to confirm that the image is “not genuine,” that it has been altered.

Whether this was done as a “whistle blowing” move, or simply to rub in the impunity with which MSSS and JPL feel they can manipulate this data, this is clearly a far more logical explanation than SPSR’s “anonymous Martian graffiti artists.” Yet, SPSR has (in private communications) refused to budge from their ridiculous stance that these are “genuinely on the D&M” for three long years, as opposed to the more obvious– and far more threatening, to them -- work of “JPL insiders.”

No wonder Nature and Science refused to even consider Van Flandern’s “scientific” paper on Cydonia!

It would have been bad enough if Van Flandern and his SPSR “colleagues” had stopped there. But, as if to further reduce their own remaining credibility, the press kit presentation Van Flandern handed out (and actually mailed across the country) then devolved into a ridiculous series of “pictographs” supposedly present on the Martian surface! Van Flandern at least had the presence of mind not bring these images up at the actual Press Club briefing, but their presence as graphics on the press conference Web link, and in the hard copy press kit, was an abominable political move.

These supposed “pictographs” (above) represented what SPSR’s “best minds” imagined that they saw -- because no rational person could convincingly argue that they are actually on the Martian sands. Everything -- from a “Scorpion” (actually a structure found by Hoagland in 1998) to a “child” (Horus anyone ..?), to an “antlered animal,” to a “Dolphin” (above, left), to (we’re not kidding here) even Nefertiti (above, right) -- was “found on Mars,” according to SPSR’s rejected “scientific paper.” There was seemingly no limit to what these guys imagined that they saw … and were willing to commit to writing … without any collateral mathematical context or substantiation (unlike Cydonia). And as anyone with any experience with media can easily attest (had we been asked …) there is no quicker way to bury yourself with the press than to “wildly speculate” along the lines of this demonstrable projection.

The damage done to “the cause” by this self-serving exercise in fantasy imaginings is far more drastic than anything we have ever done with our “craziest” theories of (demonstrable) conspiracy at JPL.

If ever there was a case of “sending a boy to do a man’s job,” this political “Titanic” was it. By allowing this to go forward, SPSR has relinquished any moral high ground they might have ever claimed -- even in their twisted, self-aggrandizing version of reality -- to leadership on this non-trivial issue. 

In this world, there are star quarterbacks, and there are supporting players who do little more than block for them. We all know happens if the oafish offensive lineman try to handle the ball or throw a pass: It is usually a disaster for the team with the ball. It is hard as yet to gauge the long-term damage to the credibility of the whole “artifacts on Mars” question that was done by this ill advised and obviously ego driven foray April 5th into our territory -- the political arena. But it is safe to say that the best thing SPSR could do now is to drop any further pretense they may have of inserting themselves into a game they are obviously woefully unprepared to play ... let alone to win.

Amateur night is over, gentlemen. It’s time to step aside and leave the political wars, let alone the real science, to the varsity team.