The man behind the
face on Mars: How he thinks extraterrestrials
and their architecture may
have restructured the entire solar system
Before Richard Hoagland spoke at the United Nations on February 27, 1992, a person stepped into the Dag Hammarskjold Library Auditorium and asked: "Is a man from Mars speaking here?" I must confess similar questions ran through my mind before I first met Hoagland at Omni's New York office. There's no getting around it: Hoagland has some unusual ideas about Mars. Monuments -- a whole metropolis in fact -- he believes, are linked to structures on Earth and the moon that, in turn, are tied together by an advanced new physics that may have spawned "hyperdimensional" space technologies the United States government may have gotten its hands on. Needless to say, there are ideas the mainstream scientific community wants no part of. That doesn't make Hoagland wrong, necessarily, but it definitely places him on the fringe.
At first blush, he certainly looks normal enough: a well-groomed, bearded man of 48 dressed in faultless business attire. Our conversation began on a normal note, too, with a discussion of parking strategies in Upper Manhattan and the challenges of finding coffee in offices on Friday afternoon. When we got around to the subject at hand - the alleged works described in his 420-page book, The Monuments of Mars -- Hoagland stepped up to the "mike" like a seasoned pol in the midst of a long campaign. And it has been a long campain. For 11 years he has crisscrossed the country, trying to get scientist to seriously consider the possibility that an advanced civilization has left calling card of various sizes and shapes all over the solar system. Whoever they were, Hoagland jest, "they cared enough to leave the very best."
Well-versed in many areas of science and space exploration, Hoagland has held several high posts at science museums and planetariums since 1965. He's been space consultant to NBC and CBS News and editor-in-chief at Star and Sky magazine. His most far-reaching accomplishment -- the plaque on the Pioneer space probe he concieved with Eric Burgess, co-founder of the British Interplanetary Society -has left the solar system and is now drifting in interstellar space. The message carried aboard the spacecraft could outlive Earth itself, Hoagland claims.
Although closer to home, his current activities are in some ways farther out. For more that a decade, Hoagland has worked with several dozen scientist investigating the Mars face, a mile-long Sphinx-like protuberance first spotted in photographs taken by the Viking Orbiter in 1976. During subsequent examinations of photos of this Martian region known as Cydonia, Hoagland identified a collection of pyramid-shaped mounds and objects he calls the city. He and Erol Torun, a cartographer at the Pentagon's Defense Mapping Agency, conducted an involved geometric analysis of the region. They claim the Martian geometry -- which to the uninitiated looks like a bizarre mishmash of lines -striking resembles the pattern of angles observed among pyramids in Egypt and Mexico, at Stonehenge, and even recent crop circles. How could this be? Hoagland suggest an answer: Extraterrestrials may have tinkered with our planet in ways we're just beginning to appreciate. His investigation, he's quickly pointed out, is wholly unrelated to the UFO abduction phenomenon. "Our work has nothing to do with things that go bump in the night or people claiming to be snatched from their beds."
No one denies that Hoagland has performed the most detailed analysis of Cydonia ever undertaken. If anything, critics say, the analysis is too detailed, given the data available. "Since the pictures are less than ideal, there is a tendency to overwork them and draw conclusions that may go beyond reason," says NASA Ames planetary scientist Chris McKay (Omni Interview, July 1992). "There's no doubt the thing looks like a face, but the conclusion that it was built by some civilization is a huge, huge leap."
Cornell astronomer Carl Sagan argues that given the human propensity for picking out faces amid random patterns, it's not surprising that somewhere on the 150 million-squarekilometer surface of Mars we might find something resembling a human face. To him, this feature is no more remarkable than a tortilla chip said to display the face of Jesus Christ, an eggplant supposedly resembling Richard Nixon, or a radar image of Venus containing the visage of Joseph Stalin.
The scientific community -- and NASA in particular -has a vested interest in ignoring him, counters Hoagland, which he attributes, in part, to the "not invented here" syndrome: "After spending a billion dollars to search of signs of life on Mars and coming up empty-handed, they might be just a little embarrassed if a small group of amateurs found the evidence that eluded them." NASA, Hoagland charges, has also engaged in a systematic "pattern of abuse, ridicule, personal character assassination, distortion of data, and misrepresentation of the facts going back to 1976.
Hoagland's counterattack has become more than a fulltime job. Through Mars Mission, the 20,000-member, New Jersey-based public interest group he heads, he's lobbying to "open the files" on Cydonia and restore "honesty in government." He has touted his cause on TV, while making appearances at NASA and the United Nations. In his spare time he tries to raise funds for a private mission to the moon or Mars. His efforts have been nothing short of monumental. But the question remains: Is it all an elaborate "delusion," as he once asked in the book? Is he a latter-day Don Quixote tilting at Martian sphinxes? Or has he stumbled upon a phenomenon so fantastic the rest of the world cannot face up to it, despite a body of evidence he now calls "conclusive?"
After so many years studying something the rest of the world either hasn't seen or doesn't believe, have you ever doubted your sanity?
I don't think we're crazy. Posing that question in the book was just a way of expressing my own incredulity, as well as sharing with the readers the feeling that this stuff is pretty amazing. I grew up on the Twilight Zone, Buck Rogers, Robert Heinlien, Author C. Clark, Isaac Asimov. But I never imagined I'd find myself in the middle of a bona fide investigation of possible extraterrestrial artifacts. Never. Ever. So I thought it was important to remind the reader that I'm always asking myself: Can we prove this; can we test this; can we take this from the realm of science fiction to the realm of science fact?
You once confessed to always being intrigued by the anomalies. What's the fascination?
The weird stuff by definition in the stuff that doesn't fit, things not discussed. Exceptions. Aberrations. But in the history of science you find, first, there are semiperiodic revolutions where all of what was accepted wisdom is tossed out, and the weird stuff of the old becomes the accepted stuff of the new order. Second, the revolutions are never accomplished by those in the field -always by outsiders coming in with a fresh point of view. I've been attracted to the exceptions because they may lead to that big paradigm shift.
What gives outsiders the edge?
Lack of vested interest. People in the field have their careers and job security on the line, their house and car payments, maybe kids in college. They have a reason not to want to overthrow a system that's rewarding them quite well. Outsiders don't have a reputation to protect, so they're more likely to pursue an aberrant idea. If you're in a field for 10, 20, 30 years, you develop a certain way of looking at things. You develop blinders. The thing can be right in front of you, starring you in the face, and you don't see it.
In the early Seventies, when the American Apollo program was winding to a close, the environment had become the big rage at CBS, where I worked as an adviser to Walter Cronkite. I could have gone into toxic sludge and made a nice career of it, but I decided not to because I was as sure then as I am today that if the human race is going to have a destiny, it has to incorporate space in a big way. After many battles with the network, I decided to leave in 1972 and privately pursue space as a critical avenue for the future of the human species. At the time, of course, I didn't know that I'd find evidence that may be the lever to get society to realize how important space is. If we find evidence the human race is not alone, it's not going to be on this planet, but through the monuments of Mars and maybe the stuff on the moon, and that will have vindicated my faith that yes, this is important.
How did you react when you first saw the face? Did it make a big impression?
Actually, it didn't. I had two opportunities to take it seriously and rejected it twice. I have great sympathy for people who say: "Oh my God! Come on, give me a break. This can't be real." Because I've been there. I was at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in 1976 when Viking project scientist Gerry Soffen showed us this kind of quirky face and said: "Isn't it cute what tricks of light and shadow can do?" We all giggled and went about our business. It had to be a trick of lighting. Absolutely no way this thing could be real.
Then I went to Boulder in 1981 to attend the "Case for Mars" conference. One night I saw a group of people staring at a projection screen with a big blowup of the face on Mars. Except this face looked much more striking than the knobby, gnarly thing we'd been shown at JPL. Vince DiPietro and Greg Molenaar, engineers at Goddard Space Flight Center who'd gone through the original NASA data and done state-of-the-art image processing, gave me a copy of their monograph and I thought, "Nah, it's just a freak of nature." I took the monograph home, put it on a shelf and went back to the stuff I was doing.
When did the idea finally take hold?
In 1983, DiPietro sent me a packet of stuff, photographic samples of their work on Mars. In the quietness of my den, it was just me and the photographs, and I thought, "Damn, this is peculiar!" The images were very crisp. They brought out details totally unavailable in the raw data. For the first time I considered: What if this isn't just a weird, eroded mountain? What if we're looking at an artifact? That simple thought set in motion a snowballing process that continues to this day.
Was it a question of timing, finding yourself in the right frame of mind?
Probably of having the data and peace and quiet to really think about it. I began to wonder what it'd mean for the human species to have absolute, factual knowledge that the race is not alone. Not as a distant radio signal from Alpha Centauri or somewhere out there, but as a set of existing ruins in our on back yard, accessible with late twentieth-century technology. Balancing the small probability of that against the overwhelming, almost incalculable importance, I realized that, damn it this data required somebody doing something more.
Let's talk about your big breakthrough -- the discovery of something you call the city on Mars.
Well, I was looking down at the Viking imagery, photographed from 1,000 miles over head, studying this striking, bilaterally symmetric image of a humanoid face. Making the comparisons down a center line, it's about 90 to 95 percent symmetric. There's no easy way for geology to give you that kind of symmetry. Then I started wondering where one might go to get a good view of this sculpture. Examining the left-hand side of the photograph, I spotted a collection of pyramid-shaped objects. The middle of this complex presents an exquisite view of the face looking across the Martian desert.
In measuring this complex with a protractor and straightedge, I noticed unexpected alignments. There was way too much order, pattern, linearity. Later, when Erol Torun joined me, I uncovered a redundant, specific geometry in the collection of pyramids we call the "city" and the face -- a specific, repeating pattern of angles, mathematical constants, and equations. It became apparent we weren't looking at pyramids in the Egyptian sense; some appeared to be hollow.
You assume that at one time these may have been living quarters?
Yes. Considering the current Martian environment -- mostly carbon dioxide at one one-hundredth the air pressure at sea level on Earth -- it's pretty obvious if someone were to live on Mars, he or she would need some kind of artificial environment. I was reminded of the arcologies, architectural ecologies proposed by Paolo Soleri, which are like Biosphere II in Arizona: large, enclosed environments with greenhouses, factories, and energy systems -- huge three-dimensional condominiums, miles in diameter. The things we're seeing on Mars, the individual structures making up the city, seem to be pyramids on the order of a mile or two in diameter. This is roughly what Soleri was figuring is necessary to accommodate several million inhabitants.
In the book you admit that in the early stages of the discovery process, you desired there to be a city. Might you have, to some extent, willed this city into existence?
No. I was sharing with the reader my constant ambivalence. I'd love this to be true, but also I'm saying to myself, come on, it can't be. We've been brought up in a culture which for the last 30 years has shown us a dead and lifeless solar system. People think the only place they'll see aliens or lost civilizations is on Star Trek. Certainly not in photos taken of any piece of real estate in the solar system. I was simply trying to be honest. I didn't immediately embrace this; I had to be dragged. Had to drag myself, kicking and screaming, inch by inch, micron by micron. Only when we got the numerical data, this incredible, precise geometry giving us algorithms, a new physics, and predictive examples of astronomy, could I go back and say "It has to be a city." This phenomenon has to be a complex designed by intelligent beings, because too much stuff checks out. There's a lane of circumstantial evidence four miles wide.
Maybe so, but some critics like Carl Sagan aren't convinced.
Sagan has this curious argument, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence," with which I flatly and totally disagree. That little syllogism contains a fatal trap: the idea that you know enough to decide which is an extraordinary claim. Who's in a position to judge? I can always shut you off by claiming your evidence is in sufficient because of the extraordinary nature of the claim. The critics keep changing the rules of the game -- with each new piece of objective, scientific data this investigation has marshalled in favor of the "intelligence hypothesis." They keep moving the goal line, meaning there's no way we can win.
So you consider this an impossible burden of proof?
You bet. It allows people to kill an idea by claiming that (a) it's extraordinary, and (b) there's not enough evidence. It fosters a subjectivity that is bottomless.
You're suggesting people haven't looked into your claims for political reasons. But might it be the scientific evidence you've put forward just isn't compelling enough to warrant a closer look?
Well, they haven't looked, so how could they know? That we have the data on the table, and the powers within NASA or above and beyond have not seen fit to test our hypothesis, says something about the shortcomings of the politics of this phenomenon, not the science of it.
But on a technical note, if you might address one point critics have raised -- the tendency to see faces in clouds, on mountains and the moon. The human face is the most familiar pattern we're conditioned to recognize.
That's Sagan's argument, and it falls apart because out of all those mesas we've looked at, only one resembles a human face. It also happens to be one that's part of a complex possessing stunning geometry. the extraordinary details we've found are as specific as finding New York City. What are the odds of finding a series of rectilinear structures laid out on a slender granite slab in the northeast region of the United States? You could say there's a tendency to see rectilinearity, which there is. Somebody built this rectilinear table, but they did it because that's what Euclidean geometry and the penchant for intelligence compels us to do -- to order the universe in geometric patterns. And that is the key to decoding the features we're seeing on Mars.
What other evidence supports your view?
Near the face, we find a collection of pyramid-like objects that, in fact, morphologically, are pyramids. Hard, objective science demonstrates we're not dealing with tricks of light and shadow," but with actual pyramidal and face-like objects. The point of contention now is their origin. Are they pyramidal and face-like because of natural processes -- wind, water, erosion -- or were they built?
One way to answer that question is by fractal analysis, objective computer criteria for discerning anomalies from natural background patterns. Mark Carlotto and Michael Stein used this technique and picked out the face as the most nonfractal; that is the weirdest, most unnatural piece of Martian real estate in the several thousand square miles we looked at. Finally, we have my real contribution -- the discovery of a geometric pattern linking several objects within a few miles of each other on this Martian plane. It's a recurring theme whose purpose seems to introduce us to a set of equations opening up a whole new window on physics. This geometric pattern then argues strongly that this complex was designed. There is meaning.
What is this meaning?
The geometry apparently was designed to communicate two fundamental constants of nature: pi, the ratio of the circumference of a circle to the diameter, and e, the base of natural logarithms. When you divide pi into e, you get the ratio, 0.865. That number shows up within and between these objects dozens of times. The odds of that happening by chance are astronomical. That geometry and mathematical code confirms predictions made by other researchers, particularly in astrophysics. Basically, it says spinning objects like stars or planets should show upwellings of energy at specific latitudes -- 19.5 north or south, for example. Starting with the sun and moving all the way out to Neptune, this prediction is confirmed.
Can you say a bit more about this new physics?
This theory, based on "hyperdimensional" mathematics, appears to provide a fundamental connection between the four forces of nature. In our universe energy flows downhill. Heat goes from hot to cold, from higher to lower energy. So we considered that the math at Cydonia is telling us about higher dimensions. A spinning object such as a planet, connected to a higher and lower dimension, should exhibit a weird energy anomaly, an unusual manifestation from an invisible, higher dimension that show up as an excess in our normal three-dimensional existence. We found examples of this in Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, all of which are radiating more energy than they're taking in from any observable source.
If a new mathematics and physics is being communicated, who is doing the communicating and why.
Suppose we're seeing on Mars a sophisticated, high-tech culture with access to technology based on a physics that is light-years beyond our current thinking. Then maybe, just maybe, this civilization might leave us, the "new kids on the block," clues, remnants, artifacts, to help us along. We have many examples on Earth of advanced cultures lending a helping hand to less advanced ones. We're losing the race between technology and population. Unless we introduce something radically new to grab everyone's attention and make them act like they're all part of the same species on this planet -- we're doomed.
You figure these folks came from outside the solar system?
Do you see any place in the solar system where a high-tech, indigenous civilization could have originated? I went through the list of candidates and eliminated every place. If somebody did something on Mars, they had to come from beyond the solar system. That was my position until a few days ago. Now, some new data has come the fore that's incredibly speculative, but worth considering. There's a string of rubble between Mars and Jupiter called the asteroids. There are comets. The origin of asteroids and comets is ambiguous. The existing model holds that they are bits of debris left over from the formation of the solar system. Now a new model suggests asteroids and comets are actually remnants of a planet that exploded. If so, where did it come from, and why did it disappear?
One possibility is that it used to be inhabited by a high-tech civilization that developed a technology capable of destroying worlds. If this view is confirmed, it will lead to a new theory for where the builders of Mars' monuments came from. And a striking object lesson as well. It would be sobering indeed, to confirm high-tech predecessors in the solar system that blew themselves and their entire planet away because they were too ignorant to handle what they'd figured out.
How could you verify such an incredibly speculative proposition?
We could rendezvous with a chunk of an asteroid and see if there's something down there. We could look at other bodies in the solar system. If we're not dealing with a visit from outside our solar system, then odds are they put colonies not just on Mars, but on the moon and other places. There is a whole bunch of real estate out there to visit. We've been looking at the moon for two years. If someone built the monuments of Mars, may they would have appreciated the biological role of the moon upon Earth in the hyperdimensional model. But the moon has 15 million square miles, so where do you look? The math and geometry made a set of predictions, and when we starting looking at the most obvious site -- on space-based, NASA-based, and Earth-based photographs -- we found a large crater containing on equilateral triangle, and a series of stunning clues and structures that are positively baffling, if they're not artificial.
Our evidence strongly suggests that at one time, there was some kind of large-scale habitation and construction on the lunar structure. Again, we seem to be looking at arcologies, enclosed environments. The great advantage, in contrast to the couple of photographs we have of Cydonia, is that we have millions of pictures of the moon, including almost two million taken by the Pentagon's unmanned Clementine spacecraft.
Just how big are these structures, anyway?
Very big -- hundreds of miles across and tens of mile high. The moon is an easy place to build very large structures, with one-sixth Earth's gravity, no hurricanes, wind, thunderstorms, or earthquakes.
Why didn't the Apollo astronauts see anything?
Well, when I was going through the Apollo transcripts, I found comments suggesting some astronauts did see the things we have now rediscovered on the photographs, but didn't recognize what they were seeing. They were told they were going to a lifeless, uninhabited and were never briefed about the possibility of seeing artificial structures.
OMNI: How could they have been prepared otherwise?
A 1961 Brookings Institution report, commissioned by NASA, discussed this very contingency -- that artifacts may be discovered by our space activities on the moon, Mars or Venus. The study describes two viable options for confirming extraterrestrial intelligence. One was a search for artifacts in the solar system; the other a radio search for signals from extraterrestrials light-years away. The only E.T.s we ever expected to find were those who call us on the phone from Alpha Centauri. The notion of finding alien artifacts, somewhere, was considered politically unacceptable.
What, in your opinion, is behind this apparent bias?
The Brookings document discussed the possibility of finding artifacts and E.T. radio signals and considered the potential risk to our civilization. But what's the risk in artifacts? They communicate information that will change the status quo in science, technology, anthropology, and so on. New technology could lead to bigger, better things, including perhaps, weapons. Ultimately, Brookings was saying what I said a few moments ago: Unbridled knowledge in the hands of children can destroy a planet. So, the only safe course, or so Brookings recommended, would be not to tell the American people of such a discovery.
Since such a revelation could overthrow everything we know, how should it be presented to the public?
Look at what we've lived with for the last 40 years. Every morning kids got up and every night as they went to bed, they had to consider seriously that they wouldn't wake up the next morning, that somewhere, someone would push the wrong button and 50,000 nuclear warheads would turn
this planet into a flaming pyre. Somehow we dealt with this awesome, frightening capability by openly discussing nuclear policy and proliferation. We now need and adult attitude toward extraterrestrial intelligence whereby we can rationally assess the possibility the human race is not alone.
How might it "change the history of human consciousness?"
The standard biological models say the human race is the result of trillions of random decisions made in the Earth's isolated environment. If you roll the dice again, you'll come to the conclusion that, yes, you might have intelligence on another planet, but it couldn't possibly look like us. It's against that backdrop that we go to Mars. We take a set of pictures. And find a mile-long 1,500-foot-high effigy that looks like us. Since you can pretty effectively rule out that we did it, you're only left with a few possibilities: an indigenous Martian culture, an exterior culture from beyond the solar system, or a variant -- another culture on another planet somewhere in the solar system.
The problem is, it looks like us. Standard evolutionary biology says it can't look like us. So it either means something about biology is totally whacko and we don't understand it at all, or there has been contact between somebody out there and somebody down here. In that case, we may be looking at some kind of calling card specifically designed to capture our attention. It says very simply that either the universe creates, over and over again, conscious sentient beings in our image or that somebody went to a lot of trouble to put a version of us down on the Martian surface to tell us about prior contact. Either scenario is awesome! If there is a universal template forcing intelligence to assume a human form, that's pretty amazing; the other possibility is that aliens have somehow meddled in the affairs of Earth.
How far do you suppose this "meddling" might have gone?
Perhaps the face on Mars is evidence someone has used genetic engineering to influence biological development in this environment for reasons that are currently unknown.
Why would someone do that? For kicks? Profit? Altruism?
Who knows? But suppose somebody who knew a lot more than we currently know arrived here, looked around, and said: "Whoops! They're not going to make it." And they did something to give us a better chance, something enabling us to pass on the favor some day. It may have been a little tinkering or a lot of tinkering. Suppose they also decided to leave us a memorial, so when we grew up and got to Mars we could thank them.
If true, that would cause a revolution in science and philosophy.
The history of science or philosophy can be viewed as a series of successive dethronements. A few thousand years ago, we -- whichever people we were -considered ourselves the chosen of God. Things moved along and we found maybe we're so chosen, but at least Earth was the center of universe. Then along came Copernicus. For a while, we clung to the idea the sun is still the center of the universe, until we found it's just an average star on the periphery of an average galaxy in a universe of billions of galaxies. But at least we were still the only sentient beings in the entire cosmos. Maybe one reason people refuse to seriously consider the artifacts on Mars or the moon has to do with the "last dethronement." If we were to find evidence of structure in our own back yard, we'd no longer even be the first civilization this solar system. It was once someone else's!
What do you see as your role in the "last dethronement?"
Now I'm just excited about having the chance to explore this prospect in my lifetime -- just being part of this enormous revolution, being able to continue the search for extraterrestrial intelligence and to try to figure it all out. That is much more exciting than any place in history. The struggle will not be over when NASA finally, grudgingly acknowledges there are artifacts. That confirmation of our discovery is not the endpoint at all. It's just the beginning. It opens the door.