Moons Over Mars

Quirks of Nature or Artificial? New Takes on an Enduring Mystery


Mars has two moons that were discovered in 1877, by a man named Asaph Hall, the director of the Naval Observatory in Washington, DC. Or were they? There is evidence that the moons of the planet named for the God of War were known long before. There is also evidence that knowledge of these moons was secretly passed along in literature. Most remarkably, there is evidence that suggests that at least one of these moons has served as a base for visitors from outer space. Modern science has confirmed secrets known by some for centuries. Could modern attempts to learn more have been thwarted by alien craft?

The first we heard of Mars’ companions was in The Iliad. Homer mentioned Phobos (Fear or Panic) and Deimos (Terror) ordered by Mars to harness his horses as he put on his “all-shining armor,” in the Fifteenth book of his epic. In Homer’s Secret Iliad, authors Florence and Kenneth Wood claim Homer included a great deal of information about the stars and planets in his work. “It will never be known when astronomical learning was first woven into stories about gods and mortals, but it was certainly long before Homer.”

Galileo (1564–1642) improved on the telescope and is considered the father of observational astronomy. Because of this he found himself the target of the Inquisition for his theories on Heliocentrism. This was the novel concept that the sun is stationary and the planets revolve around it. Such revolutionary thought led the Church to execute astrologer Giordano Bruno in 1600. Bruno’s Inquisitor Cardinal Bellarmino allowed Galileo to live under house arrest rather than to also be burned at the stake. At the same time, Galileo was forced not to publish and to keep his knowledge to himself. It didn’t stop him, however, from communicating with other astronomers.

One of these was Johannes Kepler (1571–1630), a German astronomer, astrologer, and mathematician who is best known for his laws of planetary motion. Kepler had studied under Tycho Brahe who devoted a great deal of time to analyzing Mars and kept much of his work secret. Kepler had communicated with Galileo who had told him of discoveries that were too dangerous to announce. Galileo had a unique way of communicating with fellow scientists. He would make up coded expressions that were difficult for even his peers to translate. Kepler left a secret anagram received from Galileo that, once translated, started with “Greetings to you the twin offspring of Mars.”

Kepler had interpreted this as confirming what he had been working on. The planets rode in an orbit determined by their size and their distance from the sun and the other planets. He believed Mars had two moons, and by means of his—and Galileo’s—calculations, was able to confirm the thesis.

Tycho Brahe kept much of his research to himself, and it is suspected that his death by mercury poisoning may have been due to his assistant who then inherited his work (See Atlantis Rising #98). Brahe had willed all his work to Kepler, the same work he jealously guarded during his life. Both had agreed that by using mathematics, they could learn the laws of the universe. Kepler, like St. Bernard who promoted the Knights Templar, declared, “Geometry is God Himself.”

Cyrano de Bergerac (1619–1655) wrote an odd story on the “empires of the sun and moon” that included unusual spacecraft. His work was not published until his death. In the book he mentioned the two moons of Mars.

Voltaire (1694–1778) is most remembered as a philosopher, historian, and as a writer who criticized church and state. He was a member of the prominent Freemason Lodge of the Nine Sisters. It was actually Benjamin Franklin who had initiated him into the group. What may be less well known is that he wrote a work of science fiction. In it he wrote that Mars has two “servants” invisible to astronomers. Voltaire’s story titled Micromegas is about an alien visit to Earth. The two aliens who made the visit were of gigantic size, and before they reached Earth they stopped on one of Mars’ moons. Today one of the two craters on Deimos is named after Voltaire. While this might seem just a tale, in modern times certain scientists are saying this actually happened and is still happening.

Jonathan Swift was next. Born into a family that was penniless at one point, he still managed an education in Trinity College in Dublin. Next he went to England where he became secretary to the wealthy statesman Sir William Temple. This ancient family took their name from the Templar-owned property, which they would take over during the Crusades. Despite the very powerful patron, Swift’s most famous work still had to be published anonymously.

In writing Gulliver’s Travels in 1727, he described the flying island of Laputa whose astronomers discovered two lesser satellites that revolve around Mars. He described the innermost moon as being 13,000 kilometers from the planet and having the remarkably short orbit of 10 hours. In reality, Phobos is even closer to the planet and revolves in 7.7 hours. The larger moon takes twenty-one and a half.

Swift should be credited not only for knowing the two Martian moons existed but also for getting the size and the distances very close (especially since he was writing one-hundred-and-fifty years before they were discovered). It should be noted that modern scientists believe that their orbits can change.

In more modern times H.G. Wells, again writing fiction, said, “No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s.”


The Twin Offspring

The two moons of Mars were found to be unique when they were discovered. They had not been visible, in part, because they are composed of very gray matter and are very dark in color. The glare of the surface of Mars makes them nearly invisible. Asaph Hall believed they were there but had just about given up on ever finding them. His wife Angelina had asked him to try one more night, and he discovered Deimos. He kept looking and six days later, he found Phobos.

The twin moons were determined to be in west-to-east circular orbits. And they are most unusual, as they do not revolve in the way most moons do. The same inner-side always faces the planet with the outer-side being constantly bombarded with the debris and dust circulating through the atmosphere. This is called ‘tidal locking.’

They bear a greater resemblance to asteroids than to Earth’s moon, although scientists ruled out the chance that they could be asteroids. Due to their unstable orbits, some believe, they were not formed when the planet was. They would later be made captive.

And they are small. Phobos is 14 miles across, Deimos 8 miles. Phobos is only 3,700 miles from the surface of Mars. This is the closest of any moon in our solar system to its corresponding planet. It travels around the planet three times each day. Hall, recalling Homer’s comments, named them for the twin sons of the God of War. Phobos is Panic; Deimos is Dread or Terror. Phobos is traveling inward while Demos is slowly drifting away. Every year Phobos is seven-tenths of an inch closer. It is possible that someday in the distant future it may simply crash into Mars—unless of course, those who use Phobos for a base alter its course.

Could there be life on Phobos? The side that faces the sun can reach twenty-five degrees Fahrenheit. The side that faces Mars can be minus one-seventy degrees. This moon is so small that a one-hundred-and-fifty pound human would, through reduced gravity, weigh only two ounces. This is helpful if Voltaire’s giant visitors arrive. The real question might be: could there be life in Phobos? A hollow planet might serve alien visitors in creating a safe and protected habitat inside.


Space Station Phobos

After its “discovery,” it was determined that not only the distance across Phobos was very short, but also that it registers on instruments as 1,000 times lighter than water. Dr. Iosif Samuilovich Shklovsky explains this can only be because it is a hollow shell. He concluded that because of certain factors, including the changing speed, Phobos is artificial.

Shklovsky, who is an eminent Russian mathematician, says not only is it hollow, but it was also placed in its orbit as a space station for interplanetary travelers. This is precisely what Voltaire speculated two centuries before. (He makes the same reference about the innermost of Jupiter’s twelve moons appearing and disappearing without a predictable orbit.)

In 1966, Carl Sagan published Intelligent Life in the Universe with Shklovsky and agreed, “A natural satellite cannot be a hollow object.” A special advisor to President Eisenhower, S. Fred Singer arrived at the same conclusion speculating that it was an orbiting space station. NASA chief of applied mathematics concurred that, “Phobos might be a colossal base orbiting Mars.”

While most conventional scientists do not even consider alien life as a possibility, Dirk Vander Ploeg says the U.S. Naval Observatory verified Shklovsky’s conclusions. He further speculated on just what use Phobos might be to space aliens.

Others believe that both moons contain water in the form of ice. Ice can be warmed and separated into hydrogen and oxygen. Phobos has nitrogen and ammonia and could be a self-supporting base. Its low gravity means it has an escape velocity of a mere 25mph. This would allow easy takeoff for space-craft. In the 1960s it was noticed that its orbit was speeding up.


The Race for Phobos

Apparently the Russian Space Agency took an early interest in the Red Planet’s odd moon.

In 1988 the Soviets launched two probes named Phobos 1 and 2. As Phobos 1 neared its destination, it was suddenly lost and never heard from again. The Soviets observed that a radio command error had occurred and decided that this is how their probe was lost.

Phobos 2 started with better luck but also ended in disaster. The plan was that it would link up with the tiny moon and explore it with highly sophisticated equipment. It arrived at Mars in January of 1989. It was supposed to orbit with Phobos and to drop its instruments on the surface. Then it would resume orbiting Phobos and transferring data back to Earth. But, on March 28, 1989 the Soviet mission control acknowledged communication problems. The scope of the problem was not revealed, and it was treated as a minor failure that would soon be resolved. The next day, however, it was revealed that the spacecraft was lost. The television newscast Vremya reported that seconds before contact was lost, the probe had photographed a UFO. US television mentioned such an object but did not describe it as huge, as had the Russians. Many questions arose. Was it hit by something? Why did it suddenly destabilize? Alexander Dunayev, chairman of the Soviet Glavkosmos Space Administration, said, “Our image appears to include an odd-shaped object between the spacecraft and the surface of Mars.” Boris Bolitsky, a scientific correspondent for Radio Moscow, said these unusual objects had “quite remarkable features.” The Soviets would later release the television transmission minus the last few seconds in which the ‘object’ appears.

The only natural conclusion is that alien spacecraft from Mars, or wherever, didn’t want spacecraft from Earth intruding on their base. Again echoing Voltaire.

It should be noted that attempts to land on Venus and transmit home were regularly successful. What went badly on trying the same on Mars? Was the Phobos project encountering hostile aliens?

Dr. John Becklake of the London Science Museum said the Soviets “saw something that should not be there.” A Russian Colonel Dr. Marina Popovich, a pilot and an astronaut, presented one of the photographs in 1991, and it was called “the first ever leaked account of an alien mothership in the universe.”

The United States would follow the Russians to Mars. In late 1992, the Mars Observer was launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida. It took nearly a year to reach Mars, which it did on August 19, 1993. Three days later NASA announced it had “lost contact” with the craft. Had the Angry Red Planet inflicted another casualty?

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin is one of those in military and government space programs who insist that higher-ups are covering up the truth. On a recent televised interview, he brought the public’s attention to an apparent monolith on Phobos.

The Russians have continued their quest to Mars and its companion moons. V.G. Perminov was the leading designer of spacecraft for the Soviet Mars voyage. He would go on to author The Difficult Road to Mars. Part of the difficulty was the urgent atmosphere in Russia to beat the Americans. The other part was that the rockets had a way of failing. From Mars 1, which fell silent, to Mars 2, whose lander crashed on Mars, to Mars 3 that landed correctly but whose transmissions ceased, the story was of unending failure. The last, Mars 7, simply missed the planet. Despite the failures, though, the more difficult Phobos Project had been created.

Perminov speculated in the introduction of his book that Jonathan Swift discovered and deciphered records that the Martians left on Earth.

With the record of constant failure to explore Phobos, one can only wonder what governments are holding back from the public. NASA has a new Phobos Surveyor Mission; the Chinese have their own plans for a Phobos excursion; the European Mars Express is actively searching for clues above the tiny moon. Perhaps a single successful mission could unlock Phobos’ secret. Could the secret have been known for centuries—hinted at from Homer to modern writers? Could it reveal the nature of space aliens who have intrigued Earthlings for so long? But then, will the defensive system of this tiny moon permit such discoveries?

By Steven Sora