It would be easy to take it for granted that the atmosphere of Mars is inhospitable to sustaining life. In fact, this is generally considered to be the case—which is a good reason why NASA would be so quick to dismiss the images of the Face on Mars and the Pyramids as mere natural by-products of wind erosion. To consider that these structures were deliberately created, we have to assume that the Martian atmosphere at some point was capable of supporting life. Currently, there is a vast body of evidence emerging that suggests that this may well have been the case at some time in the past.
Primarily, scientists have been examining what is known as the Gusev crater, a huge crater with a diameter of about 160 kilometers (90 miles). Many believe that the crater at one point was filled with water. The size and dimensions of the crater suggest that possibly a lake once stood there.
The NASA Spirit Rover landed in center of the Gusev crater in 2004. Images taken from the Rover’s panoramic camera also show a number of interesting rocks. One rock outcropping, called the “Pot of Gold,” has been thus named for its strange collection of nodules. There is also a cluster of rocks that resemble rotting loaves of bread and have therefore been dubbed the “Rotten Rocks.”
The Mars Express spacecraft has gathered some other remarkable information. The mission of this spacecraft was initially to analyze in detail the chemical composition of the Martian atmosphere. The atmosphere on Mars consists of 95% carbon dioxide in addition to 5% other constituents which are not entirely known. Scientists suspected that this 5% is made up of a combination water, carbon monoxide, oxygen, formaldehyde and methane. The Mars Express was equipped with an instrument known as a Planetary Fourier Spectrometer (PFS), which is able to detect very specific molecules through an analysis of the molecule’s light absorption mode. This is known as the molecule’s “spectral fingerprint.” This instrument was able to determine for certain that methane is present in the atmosphere of Mars. The next question is, where does it come from?
Unless there is a consistent source producing the methane that continually puts it out into the atmosphere, then the methane would only survive in the atmosphere for a few hundred years. This is because it oxidizes into water and carbon dioxide fairly quickly. Both water and carbon dioxide are present in the Martian atmosphere. However, since there is also still methane present, there must be some mechanism that puts it into the atmosphere on an ongoing basis.
One theory for the ongoing presence of methane involves the possibility of volcanic activity. However, so far no active volcanos have been detected on the surface of Mars. This makes it necessary to consider the other possibility—that the methane is a by-product of biological activity such as fermentation.
Taking this possibility into consideration, NASA’s pictures of the Gusev crater using the Mars Global Surveyor, and the more recent Odyssey mission using the Themis Camera reveal some other interesting data as well. As you can see here, the images taken show a dark mass that at first glance seems to have characteristics that resemble some sort of plant life.
In 2004, the European Space Agency took its first full color image of the Gusev crater. What made the ESA image so immediately interesting was the “dark mass” features seen streaking in portions of the floor of the 90-mile-wide Crater in the NASA imaging (left). They can now be seen in true color by ESA revealed by Mars Express (right) to be various amazing shades of green.
At Gusev, if the craters in the area were indeed harboring conditions conducive to some special algae growth – primarily, by extending below the local water table — then one could easily speculate that as the algae mats within some craters grow in the Martian spring and summer, and ultimately reproduce, their spores are carried by the winds out of the craters … to form the long, sinuous streaks across the intercrater surfaces observed from orbit! The “streaks,” then, would simply be more colonies of algae from the craters … spread by algae spores surviving for a time between the crater floors.
However, deprived of crucial quantities of water and essential nutrients (which, in this scenario, would be concentrated on those crater floors), the migrating algae colonies between the craters quickly die … anddecompose. Through this process, they would inevitably release some of their bound organics – the hydrogen, carbon, etc. — back into the atmosphere … to be seen as significant quantities of methane gas.
During 2004 observations from the ESA Mars Express spacecraft in orbit around Mars, methane was detected in its atmosphere. And even more recently, methane has been detected on Mars by three independent groups of scientists. And this could be a sign of life-indicating, methane-producing bacteria.
In 2005, the “Pot of Gold” rock outcropping was examined in more detail. The Mars Spirit Rover discovered high concentrations of magnesium iron carbonate. This is a huge discovery. Carbonate originates only in wet, neutral conditions but dissolves in acidic conditions. Therefore, the presence of carbonate indicates that the ancient water which once pooled in the Gusev crater was not acidic. Rather, it was non-acidic water and therefore highly favorable habitat for supporting life. The substantial concentration of the carbonate deposit indicates a high probability that conditions were once highly conducive to supporting life in this place.
It becomes more and more clear that the Martian atmosphere has not always been so inhospitable to sustaining life. With this information, we must take into consideration the possibility that the remarkable Face and Pyramid formations on the surface of the planet did not simply emerge through natural processes. It becomes increasingly likely that their construction was deliberate at some point in the planet’s long and mysterious history. If this is so, it begs us to consider the possibility of a connection between the Martian Face and Pyramids and certain remarkable constructions found on our own planet Earth…