My Response to the
Bara/Hoagland Rebuttal

 

The following is my response to the Bara/Hoagland rebuttal to my article. I will ignore the conjecture and the inflammatory and irrational diatribes, and confine my comments to claims of factual errors and the like on my part. Direct quotes from the Bara/Hoagland rebuttal appear in bold, followed by my response.

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[The Skeptical Inquirer cover photo] is so bad that it is nearly unrecognizable as [frame] 35A72.

For the cover we used the most famous, ubiquitous "Face" image from the 1976 Viking mission -- the one that would be most immediately recognizable to everyone. Skeptical Inquirer  has run a follow-up column in the May/June 2001 issue, in which I included a more enhanced image for comparative purposes.

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They used the . . . infamous "Catbox" MGS image [the worst possible image] put out by JPL in 1998.

I did indeed use the earlier-released 1998 Mars Global Surveyor frame which, for technical reasons (due to the way NASA's mapping was being carried out), had turned out slightly "stretched" along the "Face's" vertical axis (a clue being that the adjacent crater is a bit asymmetrical). As soon as the difference between this version (which I would now call the "Jay Leno" image), and NASA's stretch-reduced version, was made clear to me by The Cydonia Institute (a bit too late -- my own fault), on my Web site I immediately replaced the former image with the latter, and Skeptical Inquirer  has published the two versions side by side in my May/June 2001 follow-up column. Even so, admittedly this unstretched image is not the version in the Bara/Hoagland rebuttal that has been light-reversed by NASA (to more closely simulate the lighting conditions from 1976), and then further "enhanced" by graphic artist Mark Kelly (including the use of shading around the eyes) so as to appear more like a face (both of those images also appear in my May/June follow-up column). For a fuller explanation of the MGS photos, see this NASA Web page.

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Rather than use one of the many images of Hoagland freely available on the web, they insert a freakishly weird sketch . . .

Unfortunately, I was not made aware of the decision to use a sketch until the issue was on its way to press, and never even saw it until my magazine arrived in the mail (the sketch was not included in my page proofs). I agree that the sketch is unflattering -- it was based on a photo found on Hoagland's Web site, taken while he was recuperating from a heart attack. I regret that a better photo was not found and used instead (I had initially suggested the one in the upper-left corner of my Web site's version of the article, but it is of insufficient pixel quality for reproduction in a magazine).

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[Posner's article] starts off with an immediate Clintonian half-truth. . . . The truth is that NASA considered Cydonia an extremely "inviting target," for the Viking 2 lander. So much so in fact, that it was the designated landing site  for that spacecraft. Within a few days of the first "Face" image, 35A72, rumblings began about changing the site. The ostensible reason for changing the targeted landing site was that Cydonia was suddenly considered "too rocky" for the Viking lander to risk a touchdown. It was further claimed that the "northern latitude" of Cydonia was partly to blame for this rough surface, and a more suitable landing site would be sought farther south. In the end, Viking 2 set down in a region known as Utopia Planitia, an even more northerly and rocky site than Cydonia. Nobody thought much of the venue change at the time, but since their new choice for a landing site contradicted their reasons for scuttling Cydonia, it seemed that somebody at JPL was nervous enough about the Face to make sure Viking stayed well away from it.

My opening paragraph was slightly in error. Like Bara does in the above complaint, I misused "Cydonia" to refer to the few hundred square miles of terrain containing the "Face" and the other "monuments." But Cydonia actually encompasses a much wider geographical region of Mars, and though the "monuments" were of no interest to NASA, the far northern portion of Cydonia was indeed of prime interest for the Viking 2 lander (which is why Cydonia was photographed so extensively), being at low elevation (so the parchutes would work) and about as close as a lander could get (due to the mission's latitude constraints) to the edge of the North Polar Cap, and thus to the possibility of encountering atmospheric water. Ultimately the terrain there was deemed too rugged to risk a landing (the alternate Utopia landing site, which turned out to be much rockier than expected, had appeared in orbital photos to be smoother than Cydonia due to protective sand dunes). Though the timing was coincidental (both portions of Cydonia -- the proposed landing site and the "monuments" area -- were, naturally, photographed in close time proximity), the "Face" was irrelevant to the change of landing sites. For a detailed chronology of the landing site selections, see these portions of Chapter 9 and Chapter 10 in On Mars: Exploration of the Red Planet 1958-1978  by Ezell & Ezell, NASA SP-4212.

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While it is basically true that Cydonia does not have much in the way of "dried river channels," it is thought to be the location of an ancient Martian ocean and as such would have all the necessary elements to have supported microbial life. The action of this ocean is in fact one of the many (and contradictory) explanations frequently cited to account for the process that created the Face in the first place. So to claim that Cydonia is not a good place to look for life is patently absurd.

I understand the prevailing informed opinion to have been, both at the time of the Viking mission and Mars Global Surveyor, that Cydonia was most likely never an ocean, and that its features are more likely the result of erosion by other forces (e.g., wind) rather than water.

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[Posner's mentioning the possibility] that the Face was built by "Earthlings -- from our own future" . . . is ridiculous. . . . Since this notion certainly does not appear in [Hoagland's book] . . . I can only assume that this is a blatant attempt to put words in his mouth.

I didn't find this possibility (which I thought of myself) any more "ridiculous" than any other, and I did not ascribe it to Hoagland. But little did I know (nor does the above complaint hint at) how close I had actually come to Hoagland's current view; I should have simply instead put the words "our own past " in his mouth. The following (in bold) is verbatim from Richard Hoagland's appearance on the Coast to Coast A.M.  radio program on the night/morning of Nov. 17/18, 2000:

The model that I am most comfortable with now is that the human race is a lot older -- a lot more extraordinary -- than we have ever been told. And the fact [is] that we once used to live all over the solar system -- that the extraterrestrials are our  guys. We're  the guys that built the stuff on Mars. We're  the guys that have left the stuff on the moon, and the stuff that we think we are now seeing on the moons of Jupiter. . . . There is so much that we are now getting glimmers of. . . . [My next book] is going to be called The Heritage of Mars: Remembering Forever,  because my thesis now, based on almost 20 years of doing this [research] . . . is "history is not as we've been told." . . . It has been carefully manipulated so we are not allowed to see this breathtaking heritage, because it would not benefit a few who are in control . . . and who want us to live this diminished existence not knowing who we really are because, frankly, it would threaten the power structure.

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[Posner] implies . . . that Hoagland claims that the "Fortress" is an actual fortress, rather than just a name given the object for archeological purposes.

Though Hoagland does not claim that the Fortress "is an actual fortress," he does represent it as one of several artificial structures comprising the "City." From the caption to Plate 10 in my 1987 edition of Hoagland's book (the same photo and caption grace the back cover): "The 'Fortress,' with thick, straight 'walls' and an apparent interior space. The long wall points directly at the 'D&M Pyramid.'"

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[Posner] then goes on to claim that the D&M Pyramid is on frame 35A72, which it flatly is not.

Plate 1 in my edition of Hoagland's book is labeled "Frame 35A72, low sun angle, NASA batch-processed version." Item (a) is the "Face," (b) the "city," and (c) the "D&M pyramid." This frame also appears on this aforementioned NASA Web page, and does indeed contain the so-called "D&M Pyramid" -- the feature touched by the lower horizontal border of the thin rectangle/parallelogram (which outlines the strip covered by an even higher-resolution camera).

[Note: Following the posting of my response, the above-quoted sentence has now been removed from the Bara/Hoagland posting.]

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Posner moves into absolutely ridiculous territory, implying that Hoagland is somehow responsible for corruption in [the] west African nation [of Sierra Leone].

If Bara and Hoagland are capable of drawing such a flawed inference, this may help to explain how they can reach such weird conclusions about the surface features of Mars.

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[Hoagland] never wrote any of the words attributed to him [in the promotional material for the stamp set]. The whole "quote" was written by Feinstein and used without Hoagland's permission.

If that is so, I regret repeating the quote which, as I point out, was published by the most authoritative philatelic news source. But I wonder what part of it Hoagland would disagree with.

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As to the issue of Hoagland "selling" a book on Harder's program . . . Hoagland received no fees or royalties for his role [as editor].

If that is the case, I am happy to clarify the record.

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Readers are asked to please point out to me by e-mail any other alleged factual errors (or the like) that I have failed to address in this response.


Return to end of my Skeptical Look at Richard Hoagland

Read Ralph Greenberg's response to Bara/Hoagland