From Skeptical Inquirer, May/June 2001


Putting a Better Face on the
"Face" on Mars

Gary P. Posner

Note: In early 2020, Richard Hoagland's "" website's URL changed to
"" (an added "s" changing ". . . mission" to ". . . missions").

In my November/December 2000 cover article "The Face Behind the 'Face' on Mars: A Skeptical Look at Richard C. Hoagland," the NASA photos of the so-called "Face" were, regrettably, not as enhanced as other available NASA images.

The cover photo (also used on page 21) was the ubiquitous "Face" image from the 1976 Viking mission -- the image most familiar to everyone (right; the rest of the "figures" are below). But an enhanced version of that photo, revealing more of the shadowed side and eliminating the black dots (missing data points) is available from NASA, and we are pleased to now present it (figure 1a). A second, less familiar photo of the face was also obtained by Viking 1, and is shown in figure 1b.

The 1998 Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) image used in the article was, for technical reasons (related to the way NASA's mapping was being carried out), somewhat "stretched" along the "Face's" vertical axis. I had previously seen both this image and NASA's stretch-reduced version, but never together, and not until a reader (George J. Haas of The Cydonia Institute) complained did I appreciate the difference. Figures 2a and 2b show both the Jay Leno-ish version we used and the one that more faithfully shows the "Face's" true proportions. Mea culpa.

NASA has also published a "light-reversed" version of the same photo, to more closely simulate the Viking photo's lighting conditions. Some have remarked that this version does indeed look a bit more like a head, though that of a lion rather than a humanoid. (See below re: Hoagland's and Art Bell's subsequent lies about this paragraph.)

Mark Kelly, a graphic artist, has performed additional "enhancements" to this image (e.g., slightly repositioning some features and adding shading around the "eyes"), thus exaggerating its humanoid qualities. Not surprisingly, Richard Hoagland's "Enterprise Mission" Web site refers to Kelly's creation as the "properly processed and ortho-rectified version" of the photo, i.e., presumably showing the "Face" as it really looks. You compare and judge (see figures 3a and 3b).

In my article's opening paragraph, I myopically referred to "Cydonia" as if it encompassed merely the few hundred square miles of terrain containing the "Face" and the other "monuments." Cydonia is actually much vaster, and though the area around the "Face" was of no interest to NASA, the far northern portion of Cydonia was initially the preferred landing site for Viking 2, being 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, however, the terrain appeared too rugged to risk a landing there.

Hoagland associate Michael Bara, whose vitriolic response to my article is featured on the "Enterprise Mission" Web site, argues that the "Face" is situated in what was likely an ancient Martian ocean, and is thus (contrary to my article's opening remarks) an excellent place to search for traces of past life. However, I understand the prevailing informed opinion (though not unanimous) 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 the result of erosion by other forces (e.g., wind) rather than water.

Bara also says that Hoagland didn't write any of the words attributed to him in the promotional material for the Sierra Leone Mars stamp set -- that "the whole 'quote' was written by [stamp promoter Alan Shawn] Feinstein and used without Hoagland's permission." If so, I am happy to clarify the record, though I wonder what part of the quote Hoagland could possibly find disagreement with.

And Bara decries my admittedly ridiculous "earthlings -- from our own future" reference (re: the possible architects of the "Face") as a "blatant attempt to put words in [Hoagland's] mouth." I didn't ascribe my nutty idea to Hoagland, but little did I know at the time (nor does Bara's complaint hint at) how close I had actually come to Hoagland's current view -- if only I had instead said "our own past." The following is verbatim from Richard Hoagland's appearance on Mike Siegel's (Art Bell's) Coast to Coast A.M. radio program from the night/morning of November 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 . . . and the stuff that we think we are now seeing on [our own moon and 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.

Two additional clarifications: A reader has informed me that the split between Hoagland and Chuck Harder was not permanent, and that Hoagland has been a frequent guest on Harder's radio program during the past few years. I have also learned that NASA's Lewis Research Center was renamed some time ago in honor of John Glenn.

Viking 1976
Fig. 1a

Viking 1976
Fig. 1b

MGS 1998
Fig. 2a

MGS 1998
Fig. 2b

MGS 1998
Fig. 3a

by Mark Kelly
(from this page)
Fig. 3b



The following concerns blatant lies
by Art Bell and Richard Hoagland
about my above May/June 2001
Skeptical Inquirer follow-up column

On the night of May 25-26, 2001, at about six minutes into his nightly Coast to Coast A.M. radio program heard by millions across the country, host Art Bell said the following about paragraph four in my above column (Richard Hoagland was his guest that night):

As a matter of fact, one of Richard's harshest critics, as well as mine and many others in this kind of business, would be my good friends at the Skeptical Inquirer. Well, Gary Posner of the Skeptical Inquirer, incredibly, in his May/June 2001 article [i.e., the above follow-up column] said, quote, Some have remarked that this version -- a [1998] light-reversed Face on Mars photo -- does indeed look a bit more like a head, though that of a lion rather than a humanoid. The idea, therefore, that Richard C. Hoagland should be ridiculed for stating that the new Face on Mars photo shows an eastern-side lion head, is ridiculous.

From Bell's inflection, as well as his use of Hoagland's full name (including middle initial), it is unmistakably clear that he intended to convey that my quoted words ended with "ridiculous," rather than with "humanoid" one sentence earlier. Continuing Bell's comment:

And you don't frequently ever hear that from the Skeptical Inquirer. The concept that Richard should be ridiculed for what he said, according to the Skeptical Inquirer, is ridiculous.
Here he articulated the word "ridiculous" so slowly that, again, there can be no question of his intent to sound as if he was quoting me, which of course he was not.

Beginning at about 15:30 into the program, the following byplay took place:

Bell to Hoagland: The Skeptical Inquirer never -- almost never -- retracts anything it ever says. And they noted, in their May/June edition, that indeed you should not be ridiculed for stating the new Face on Mars photo shows an eastern-side lion head. Uh, they actually went out of their way to say, in essence, that they would agree -- they might agree. Well, they didn't say that, but they said you shouldn't be ridiculed. They just never say that. So, what did they know . . . ?

Hoagland: In December, they did a "hit piece" on me. On the cover they did a "slash and burn" piece . . .

Bell: Yes, but to come back with this retraction, Richard, what could they have known?

Hoagland: Well, I think they had a heads-up.

Bell: The Skeptical Inquirer people?

Hoagland: I had a dinner, about a year ago in Pasadena, with a very wealthy individual [who] was interested in investing in Cydonia research. . . . And [he] regaled me the entire evening with the strength and the depth of his contacts at JPL [NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena]. . . . And he suddenly . . . says, "One of my deep contacts at the lab has informed me that the reason NASA has not released new data" -- this is a year ago now -- "is because the right-hand side of this creature is definitely a lion, and they don't know what the public reaction will be."

Re: the above Hoagland anecdote, note how, in response to Bell's question as to who gave me the heads-up that led to my "retraction" -- of course there was no "retraction" -- he talks about someone with deep contacts at NASA/JPL and about how NASA knows that the "Face" is genuine. Contrast that response with the following Hoagland comment from about 49 minutes into the show, in which he makes a distinction between the "political side" and the "NASA side" and credits the "political side" for giving me the heads-up -- he can't seem to keep his "lion" straight:

And the most amazing thing is Gary Posner's reaction. I mean, the Skeptical Inquirer can never be considered a prejudiced source in favor of our model, right? For him to say that I shouldn't be ridiculed for proposing this, I believe, and the reason they did the retraction, is they had an inside track from the political side -- not the NASA side, but the political side -- that there is a "Face" on Mars, it does have dual [humanoid-lion] imagery, and we're going to go there physically and find out what it means with a manned mission.

Subsequent to publication of my above column, on April 8, 2001, NASA obtained the highest-resolution photo yet taken of the Martian landform in question, in which it does not appear face-like at all -- and Bell even acknowledged this more than a half-dozen times during the program. But Hoagland continues to see his "lion."

Yet, incredibly, Hoagland added (at about 34 minutes into the show) that even if this latest NASA photo "had shown nothing -- that [the "Face"] was just a hole -- I would not have been fazed in the slightest, because you can't undo the mathematical matrix in which this thing is embedded" (referring to his "Cydonia equations" that led to his "hyperdimensional physics" discoveries). Bottom line: Hoagland's position sounds non-falsifiable, and thus non-scientific.

But, as Hoagland added later in the show, a Mars mission planned for 2005 will carry "a camera which is going to give us a few-inch resolution -- not five feet, but about a foot resolution. You'll see the structure and the girders and the cubicles of which this thing was made." Question for Hoagland: What if we really see nothing more than a natural landform? I predict the following answer (though I won't be holding my breath until 2005): "I'm not fazed in the slightest, because you can't undo the mathematical matrix in which this thing is embedded."

 We've been viewing the "Face" upside down!