Upcoming NASA Missions Back to Mars...
and NASA's Plans and Policy Relating to Cydonia

NASA "Micro-Fossil"
Press Conference

(August 7, 1996)


"Regarding your assertion that you wanted to 'relook' at the priorities for the upcoming Mars missions -- there is a group of scientists, headed by Dr. Stanley McDaniel (sic), that has been asking NASA for some number of years now to rephotograph the Cydonia land forms ['the Face' and 'pyramids'] at a high resolution, and to make this 'rephotography' on the list of top priorities for photographing the Mars surface. In view of the findings announced today, I'm wondering what you would be saying [today] about this question of rephotographing the Cydonia land forms at high resolution... top priority... and in 'real' time."

Answer -- from Dan Goldin, NASA Administrator:

"There can only be so many 'top priorities,' and if everything is #1 priority we'll never get there. We have a much higher-resolution capability with this mission, and I'll ask Wes [Huntress, Associate NASA Administrator for Space Science] to handle the details. We have the mission planned and targeted, and if we have an opportunity to get a picture of what some people think is a Face on Mars' and could have been prior -- not single-celled life but a higher level of life--; if we have a chance to get a higher-resolution picture to see what that is, we will do that. Let me ask Dr. Huntress to talk about our approach."

Answer -- Dr. Wes Huntress, Associate NASA Administrator for Space Science:

"You have to remember that what we are talking about today -- and let me just repeat -- is only potential evidence for early, very microbial life on this planet, not of higher order forms of life later in the history of the planet. So -- there's no direct bearing on whether or not this formation ['the Face'] is the result of civilizations on Mars -- as some would like to believe... ([in spite of the fact that] the great majority of the science community believe that's not the case). But, in addition to the lander we're sending later this year [Mars Pathfinder], were also sending an orbiter [Mars Global Surveyor] to begin the geological mapping of the planet in order to, in fact, look for the best places on the planet where we would find evidence of early life on this planet. And we will, in fact, be getting some fairly high-resolution images of various portions of the planet. Now this [Cydonia] region is NOT a particular target [of Surveyor, or Pathfinder]. But if there is an opportunity to rephotograph it, we certainly will; we're certainly going to get better pictures of it than we got last time... [emphasis added]."

NASA Administrator Goldin's "philosophical reflections" on the meaning of the August 7 NASA announcement of the "Martian micro-fossil" (Discovery Channel -- September 29, 1996):

"After that press conference, I wasn't tired; I wasn't nervous. I was excited. So much adrenalin flowed, that I excused myself... went to my office and I shut the door and I sat there -- blinds closed for a half hour -- contemplating the impact that this could have on who we think we are..."

Carl Sagan, Cornell University -- on CNN WORLD VIEW, August 6, 1996 -- the day before the NASA Press Announcement:

"The chance of independently arriving [at]... the same kind of life [as NASA has researched] on two independent planets is very small. And that is one of the great excitements -- to see what two different planets [evolve]... how their evolutionary history proceeds. The discovery, if confirmed, is a glorious discovery: it suggests not just life on two planets in one paltry solar system... but that the process is very general... and that life must exist on [the planets of] billions of stars in the Milky Way Galaxy... [emphasis added]."

What was that we said in "Monuments," now so many years ago . . ?

"...if the colonists' of Mars didn't come from Earth... we are left with only one reasonable alternative--

"The stars themselves..."

-- Richard C. Hoagland, "The Monuments of Mars" (1987)

And what did Carl Sagan say just recently, specifically about "Cydonia" . . ?

"...these features merit closer attention with higher resolution. Much more detailed photos of the 'Face' would surely settle issues of symmetry and help resolve the debate between geology and monumental sculpture. Small impact craters found on or near the Face can settle the question of its age. In the case (most unlikely in my view) that the nearby structures were really once a city, that fact should also be obvious on closer examination. Are there broken streets? Crenelations in the "fort"? Ziggurats, towers, columned temples, monumental statuary. Immense frescoes? Or just rocks?

"Even if these claims are extremely improbable -- as I think they are -- they are worth examining...

"Unlike the UFO phenomenon, we have here the opportunity for a definitive experiment. This kind of hypothesis is falsifiable, a property that brings it well into the scientific arena.

"I [therefore] hope that forthcoming American and Russian missions to Mars, especially orbiters with high-resolution television cameras, will make a special effort -- among hundreds of other scientific questions -- to look much more closely at the pyramids and what some people call the Face and the city [emphasis added]..."

-- Carl Sagan, "The Demon-Haunted World" (1995)

And, if they do -- and Cydonia is resoundingly confirmed (and we all get to know...) -- where will Dan Goldin go to meditate on that one?