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Menhir from Mars.

Are the pyramids on Mars natural mineral outcroppings or they remnant artifacts depicting a civic center from a long-vanished civilization launched a Mars Observer back in 1992 to inter alia find out, but it abruptly stopped transmitting two years later before reaching its objective. Another probe, the first to successfully arrive at the red planet since 1976, is currently in orbit and experiencing odd difficulties, as is the Surveyor that touched down this past July and is attempting to characterize surface features.

This doesn't prevent us from speculating on what is buried in the sands of Mars, or even of what those very sands are composed. We had earlier reviewed Richard Hoagland's description of the mile-long simian-looking face on Mars in the region of Cydonia on the southern Martian plains, along with the nearby pyramids proposed by imaging experts Vincent DiPietro and Gregory Molenaar ("Monuments on Mars," R&D Magazine, March 1995). But, until we get more definitive photos of this Cydonian face and the neighboring pyramids in stereoscopic displays, we are largely speculating in a vacuum.

If, somehow, we were to find that these monuments - these menhirs - are indeed artifacts, we wouldn't be able to put man on Mars fast enough to personally see for ourselves what further secrets are hidden in the Cydonian sands. There's no question that any one of these features is quite old, in fact rather ancient even by geological standards. If they're found to be artifacts, we'd immediately embark on an intellectual and philosophical quest unparalleled in the history of mankind.

But what of the prosaic sands of Mars? Unfortunately, we have not elected to include any of our sophisticated microscopes on our space probes to more closely inspect the smaller physical aspects of the Martian landscape. We've seemingly been far more interested in the gross attributes by characterizing the mineral content of the larger-sized boulders and stones which dot the surface by irradiation techniques to satisfy the curiosity of exogeologists. Fair enough. But, perhaps we also need the expertise of microscopists, such as the caliber of Walter McCrone and his associates, to study a bit more closely what's right underfoot in front of our cameras - stuff smaller than a pebble but larger than an atom.

In these pages, a speculation was proffered that the surface of the red planet was covered by a substantial dusting of agglomerated glassy microspheres ("The sands of Mars and the colors of seasons," R&D Magazine, July 1990). Moreover, these microspherules are conjectured to come in two varieties, an oxidized orange-red ferric iron and a reduced yellow-green ferrous iron. The ferric iron spherules would be magnetically permeable while the ferrous would not.

The significance of the two kinds of spherules is that the magnetic cohesiveness of the permeable ferric glass-like particles would impart the characteristic red color to the surface of Mars, while the greenish ferrites would give the deceptive impression of vegetation growing in select regions of the planet following the violent windstorms of a Martian winter.

These windstorms occur approximately every two of our own years, and although the keening gales are tenuous they race around the planet in excess of 200 mph and raise voluminous dust clouds which obscure the surface. And, when these winds subside, there is a notable greening of the planet, a phenomenon attributed less than a century ago to the growth of vegetation. Thus, the false foliage would be more of a physical event than a chemical one, much less a biotic episode. However, oxidation-reduction processes effected by solar radiation and the Martian atmosphere could also contribute to the anomalous color changes.

The origin of these hypothetical microspheres would most likely be in some ancient disaster that wracked the planet, where an asteroidal impact or volcanic event, or both, brecciated the surface and boiled off the atmosphere and oceans, leaving a glassy vestige of microscopic tektites on the ground and very little residual air-mass.

If there were inhabitants on the red planet at the time they would either have perished in the catastrophe or left their world for a more serene environment. In the latter case, could it be that man is really from Mars?
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Title Annotation:Martian monuments
Author:Jueneman, Fred
Publication:R & D
Date:Dec 1, 1997
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