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Life on Mars Interview on Farshores

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Bill Dash has published an interview with me regarding the severity of NASA's alleged coverup of possible life on Mars.


BD: Talk some more about why you think there's a strong likelihood that our red sibling is also home to life.

MT: Mars had life-favorable conditions very early in its history: time enough for life to take root and gain a foothold. As we're beginning to understand by studying unbelievably resilient "extremophile" microbes here on Earth, life is an incredibly tenacious phenomenon. Frankly, it would be rather incredible if Mars was sterile. It's like a banged-up car in need of a paint-job: it looks lousy, but the engine still turns over. I think that Mars has a varied microbial ecology as well as macroscopic life-forms. The probable fossil record alone is reason for a manned mission.

Probable tree-like organisms near Mars' south pole.

BD: What can concerned individuals do to help force NASA/JPL to begin acting honorably?

MT: The present climate of apathy needs to go. Right now, very few people care about outer space or NASA's credibility as a tax-funded entity; Enron and Iraq get our attention instead. Ultimately, colonizing Mars is imperative to our survival as a species. We simply can't afford to put all of our eggs in one basket and stay on Earth until it's too late to leave. We need to seriously alter our perspective, and see our priorities in a cosmic light.

NASA has failed to elicit any sense of the fantastic by sending robotic probes; the public doesn't particularly care about telerobotic spacecraft. It's time to send people. That would get our collective attention, and NASA would suddenly find itself under public scrutiny. And that's the way it should be.


To read the interview in its entirety, see Naturally Occurring Arctic Circles and Martian "Grids"

Related links: (See: "New Mars Kid in Town")

Extensively geometric stone circles found in the Arctic have puzzled geologists for years. New research explains their formation and suggests that some of the peculiar city-like "grids" on Mars may also be naturally occurring phenomena.

Surface view of artificial-seeming stone circles.

Mark Kessler of the Earth Sciences Department at the University of California attributes the unusual Arctic features to a geological feedback process involving cyclic freezing and "lateral sorting." Interestingly, the primary process involves "frost heave," in which fine soil (similar to Martian dust?) expands when frozen. The discovery of massive amounts of frozen water on Mars implies that Martian "grids" may owe their existence not to alien architects, but a dynamic process of cyclically thawing and freezing ice: a model almost as dangerous to NASA/JPL's "dead" view of the Red Planet as the prospect of intelligent life.

Converging water flows on Mars indicate a dynamic subsurface environment. Image courtesy Efrain Palermo.

While by no means proven, the expansive grid formation discovered by Keith Laney (below) may be the result of a novel form of cyclic freezing and the "lateral sorting" posited by Kessler.

Anomalous Martian grid. Note conspicuous shallow (?) "perforation." Image courtesy Keith Laney.

The unusual "lizardskin" terrain pictured below may be another example of subsurface hydrological processes. The various rectilinear formations may likewise be exotic natural features, although this is by no means certain. Extensive study is needed in order to determine if the Arctic circles share a similar origin to their Martian counterparts.

Circular "cells"...

City-like terrain...

Special thanks to James W. Johnston and John Shirley.


New "Blog"!

"Posthuman Blues," my new weblog (or "blog") is updated daily and contains various thoughts on Mars and ETI alongside assorted thoughts on other matters entirely. Contains brief excerpts from my forthcoming Cydonia/SETI book (Pocket Books, early 2004). This is more of an online journal than a formal presentation, but it's open to the public.

To visit, click here:


Space Shuttle Columbia Disintegrates Over Texas

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This morning a friend called to let me know that the space shuttle Columbia had disintegrated before a scheduled landing. Somehow, this news came as more of a punch in the face than when I learned of the terrorist attacks of 2001. Flawed and short-sighted as it is, NASA is a uniquely American institution capable of doing truly awe-inspiring things given the budget and initiative. The recent announcement of Project Prometheus, a long-overdue effort to use nuclear energy in space in the peaceful pursuit of knowledge, is an example.

Columbia's disintegration is a profound loss that raises important questions about the future of our already tenuous manned presence in space. It could be argued that better technology could have prevented this setback; the shuttle program utilizes laughably obsolete craft that properly belong in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. The loss of the Columbia's crew is a monumental waste of human potential that transcends national boundaries. The seven astronauts killed in the mishap were humanity's envoys, avatars of our inherent exploratory spirit. We badly need more people like them.

The demise of the Columbia and its crew shouldn't hold us back. Their death should be a rallying call for new, more efficient and more reliable space transportation systems. The space shuttle concept, as presently manifested by NASA, begs replacement. The time has surely come to broaden our conception of space and the definition of our role in its uncompromising vastness.

Perhaps I'm being foolishly optimistic about this. The loss of Columbia was a grotesque blow. But maybe NASA needs a grotesque blow to wake it up to the fact that it's using risky hardware and getting very little in return. The shuttle program is largely a charade, a manned spaceflight program in permanent standby mode. Yes, it's better than nothing at all, but now we're seeing how fragile it really is.

This could be a chance to introduce a real reusable shuttle instead of the cumbersome, wasteful, horribly inefficient mutation we call the Space Shuttle. But will we rise to the challenge or revert to the status quo?

Let's continue to expand, establishing permanent beachheads in the sky, never holding back for the sake of bureaucratic whim or political myopia.


"Martian Genesis" and "The Atlantis Enigma" by Herbie Brennan

cover cover

Click on covers to order.

"Martian Genesis":

In this quick, highly readable volume, Brennan suggests that the human race originated on Mars and cites archaeological anomalies that may eventually lead our species to a profound redefinition of who and what we are. "Martian Genesis" contains many "ancient astronaut" cliches, but remains thought-provoking. The question Brennan addresses cannot be comfortably brushed aside: If the Martian "Face" is artificial, then what does it say about our evolutionary heritage?

"The Atlantis Enigma":

Continuing in the same archaeological vein as "Martian Genesis," Brennan's "The Atlantis Enigma" is a thought-provoking reappraisal of human history. Taking Plato's poetic description of the lost civilization of Atlantis as a starting point, Brennan subjects orthodox anthropological theories to late-breaking findings including (but by no means limited to) the construction of the Pyramids and Sphinx, convergent world mythologies, tectonic upheaval, and meteor collisions. Brennan argues that the Ice Age was preceded by a technologically sophisticated global civilization that was obliterated by a "supernova fragment." Brennan's book is open to argument, but it's incisive, well-cited and potentially illuminating.

For related titles, see Mars/Cydonia Book Reviews.


Space Exploration: The Next Fifteen Years

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Artist's conception of the X-37.

The X-37 concept (or a derivative thereof) is needed in order to maintain a manned presence in Earth orbit. But can we continue to justify manned spaceflight for the sake of manned spaceflight?

While the ostensibly International Space Station (ISS) is supposed to provide justification for orbital flights, the catastophic demise of Columbia has framed national space priorities in a stark new light. Space enthusiasts have long since grown bored by endless shuttle "missions" that consist of little more than going in circles. While the ISS is not completely without promise, the current "exploration" paradigm is incapable of utilizing it as anything more than a celestial rest-stop. A new destination is needed.

Moon base constructed with existing technology.

A resurrected shuttle program based on new designs and technologies should serve as the first stage in a new era of exploration. For instance, the ISS could be used as a construction platform for a long-overdue return to the Moon. It is well within our ability--and budget--to construct a permanently crewed lunar base while committing to a multinational expedition to Mars within the next fifteen years. Neither venture is exclusive. We can, and should, do both.

Turning our attention from the dreary familiarity of low Earth orbit to the beckoning vistas of the Moon and beyond justifies the expense of the ISS by turning it from an overpriced tourist attraction to a vital staging base. At the same time, the need to launch massive, expensive payloads from Earth is dramatically curbed. Astronauts living on the Moon will be able to extract water from ice deposits as well as grow their own food: techniques that will prove invaluable as we extend our reach into interplanetary space and onto the Martian surface.

Mars: the logical next step.

A new national space imperative must rise from the ashes of Columbia and Challenger before it. Exploration of the Moon and Mars is not a mere gesture; it is an evolutionary necessity, and the United States stands poised to reap enormous benefit if only we dare. If we don't, others certainly will; China, acutely sensing the forgotten urgency of the U.S.-Soviet "Space Race," has set its sights on the Moon and has hatched ambitious schemes for manned installations.

With nuclear space propulsion finally within our grasp courtesy of Project Prometheus, we would be masochistic to deny ourselves the new frontiers promised by the Moon and Mars. No more going in circles and false romantics. Unless we act aggressively, we will sacrifice the lessons implicit in Columbia's loss.

Let's keep going--in the spirit of peace and knowledge.

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