60408 BC-SPACE-MARS-FACE REUIN GENERAL NEWS RUSH 333 09/25 3:21 PM
By Beth Dickey
CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida, Sept 25, Reuter - In an attempt to
settle debate about a lost civilisation on a cold, dead planet,
the Mars Observer will take new pictures of a face-shaped
plateau and other odd landforms that resemble the pyramids and
sphinx of Egypt.
By taking high-resolution photographs of the enigmatic rock
monoliths, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
(NASA) hopes to settle debate about a lost civilisation on the
cold, dead planet.
``We want to satisfy public curiosity,'' project scientist
Dave Evans told Reuters. He declined to give his own opinion on
whether the rock formations actually are monuments as
mathematically complex as the tombs of Giza.
The theory is put forth in the 1987 book, ``The Monuments of
Mars: A City on the Edge of Forever,'' written by Richard
Hoagland, a former aerospace consultant for the NBC and CBS
The features in a northern hemisphere region called Cydonia
were revealed in only two of the 52,000 photographs sent back to
Earth by twin U.S. Viking probes that reached Mars in 1976.
The photographs show a mile (1.6 km)-long, 1,500-foot (2,400
km) -high mesa that looks like the face of a sphinx staring
upward as well as what appears to be a cluster of pyramids
The objects have captured tabloid headlines time and again
for 16 year while NASA has dismissed them as tricks of sunlight
Mainstream theory holds that Mars once was much like Earth,
with oceans and rivers that may have harboured microscopic
organisms. But unlike its lush neighbour, Mars quickly cooled to
the core and ceased its geological activity before higher life
forms could evolve.
The Mars Observer's mission is to map the entire surface --
including the enigmatic features of Cydonia --for scientists
pondering sites for humans to explore.
Evans said the region holds ``intense interest'' for
geologists but that ``the face has nothing to do with it.''
REUTER JL BEH