In May of this year, Mars One—the European non-profit organization that aims to send a team of four on a one-way trip to Mars, in 2024—announced the selection of 705 candidates chosen for the daring mission from a pool of 200,000 applicants. The chance to be one of first humans to set foot on the Red Planet, is apparently irresistible to many, even when there will be no chance of return to the home planet. If the Mars One project succeeds, its intrepid voyagers will fulfill an ancient quest, but they may not be the first intelligent beings to set foot on Martian soil.
Since at least the nineteenth century, the possibility of life on Mars has been one of the great preoccupations of life on Earth. Ever since telescopes have been able to provide enough resolution to identify surface features, there have been those convinced that Mars, like Earth, could be inhabited. In 1877 Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli made maps of apparently long straight lines on Mars, which he called canali and named after rivers on Earth. His Italian term was translated to English as ‘canal,’ and led to the popular notion of a civilized Mars. The idea later became a staple of science fiction, most notably in H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds in 1897 featuring an invasion from Mars.
About a century later the idea took a dramatic new turn with publication of The Monuments of Mars by Richard Hoagland. A gigantic and enigmatic humanlike face gazing up from the Cydonia plain had been photographed by NASA’s Viking 1 obiter, along with the apparent ruins of a city nearby. Controversy over the meaning of that discovery has raged ever since. Dismissed as a trick of light and shadow by NASA, the monuments of Cydonia have yet refused to be fully dismissed, and now some scientists have argued that not only did Mars host ancient civilized life, something like what we find on Earth, it may also have been a place of death also like what we have seen on Earth.
Dr. John Brandenburg is a senior propulsion scientist at Orbital Technologies Corp., and author of the 2013 book, Life and Death on Mars: The New Mars Synthesis. He has assembled compelling evidence that about 180 million years ago, Mars was the site of a nuclear explosion—one which wiped out much of what existed on the surface, leaving the red-colored, desert planet we find today. While many scientists, including geological expert and astronaut Harrison Schmitt, agree that such an event could have occurred, most think it would have been a natural event. Brandenburg, though, thinks the evidence defies natural explanation. Dr. David Beaty, NASA’s Mars Program Science Advisor, told Fox News he finds Brandenburg’s evidence “intriguing and fascinating” but he wants a Mars probe to investigate the possible site.
The evidence for a nuclear event appears to radiate from a hot spot over the northern Mare Acidalium region, an area that includes Cydonia. “The spectrum of krypton and xenon isotopes found in the Mars atmosphere, particularly xenon 129 and krypton 80,” Brandenburg told Atlantis Rising in a recent interview, “are both produced by nuclear explosions, the xenon 129 directly from fission of uranium 238, and thorium by high energy fusion neutrons, and the krypton 80 by intense neutron bombardment of the soil.” Mars meteorites found on Earth come from subsurface rock and, relative to Earth rocks, are depleted in uranium, thorium and potassium, all radioactive elements. However, gamma rays from the Martian surface, as measured by both Russian and American spacecraft, show much higher levels of radiation from two particular hot spots. This adds up to the signature of two possible nuclear events. The data has been confirmed and in May of 2013, was published in Science Magazine.
Mars, at that time, believes Brandenburg—before being attacked—was in something like Earth’s Bronze Age. He has no idea who the attacker may have been. That is one of the reasons he believes we need to travel to Mars and see if any records may have been left.
For years, the possibility of ancient nuclear explosions on Earth has been a subject of much speculation. Evidence of intense heat and high radiation from over 5,000 years ago has been found in the Mohenjo Daro region of Pakistan. Unexplained deposits of of glass in the Egyptian Sahara have inspired similar conjecture. In India, the ancient Sanskrit epic poem, the Mahabharata included accounts that sound very much like descriptions of ancient nuclear warfare. Such possibilities were taken very seriously by Robert Oppenheimer, father of the modern atomic bomb.
Strangely, the evidence for nuclear destruction on Mars seems to, at least partially, corroborate accounts coming from many once derided sources. According to the late Zecharia Sitchin, ancient Sumerian records tell of the destruction of a planet known as Tiamat by a rogue planet Internet.
Usually, known by the name ‘Phaeton,’ this hypothetical world was also known as the ‘fifth planet.’ The search for the fifth planet was originally proposed by German astronomer Johann Elert Bode after the discovery of Ceres, largest of the asteroids in 1801. The notion that the asteroid belt resulted from a planetary collision is known as the ‘Disruption Theory,’ though it has been summarily rejected by mainstream science. New evidence, however, is forcing mainstream science to reconsider many ideas once dismissed as fringe.
Ancient Life on Mars
In 1986, long-time Mars researcher Brandenburg, who co-authored with Monica Rix Paxon the book, Dead Mars, Dying Earth, became the first scientist to stand before a scientific conference and announce the hypothesis that a paleo-ocean once existed on Mars. At the time the idea seemed absurd to the mainstream planetary science. However, recent visual evidence from the Mars Global Surveyor—of past flowing water and of an ocean shoreline supported his claim. Perhaps the most telling evidence of the paleo-ocean was from recent images from the Mars Orbital Laser Altimeter (MOLA), which showed a huge topographical depression in the Northern Martian Hemisphere where the ocean, covering approximately one-third of the surface of Mars, was located.
The presence of this large body of water on the surface of Mars, claimed Brandenburg, tells us a great deal about the planet’s history. For example, the presence of liquid water reveals that temperatures on Mars, currently ranging from –137° to +16° F, were at one time above freezing. This is a remarkable fact. Here a planet, about half the size of Earth and much further away from the sun (a minimum of 56 million miles), was at one time warm enough for abundant water to flow.
The presence of flowing water and warmer temperatures also reveal that Mars once had an atmospheric greenhouse and much higher atmospheric pressures than it does today. (The atmosphere on Mars today is a mere one-percent of Earth’s.) This atmosphere was probably primarily carbon dioxide, which is, as we all know, a very effective gas for retaining solar energy and warming a planet. However, the red color of the Martian “soil” tells us that there was abundant oxygen on Mars as well. The reddish color is caused by oxidized iron in the Martian terrain, like rust, and is very similar to landscapes seen in the desert southwest in North America and the cracked deserts left by the destruction of Amazon rainforests.
Suddenly we know that the warm, wet circumstance needed for life to emerge was at one time present in our neighborhood—on Mars. But was there life on Mars? The answer is growing in certainty daily: yes. To begin with, although we have never collected and brought back sample rocks from Mars, Mars has actually sent a few to Earth for us to examine.
“Mars sent Earth a love note sixteen million years ago,” wrote Paxon in Dead Mars, Dying Earth. “Inscribed on a stone, toward the starry ether thrown, it took millions of years to be captured by gravity to take a flaming plunge through the currents of our planet’s atmosphere. Fallen and alone, it lay on ancient ice unread for thirteen thousand years. But when its code was broken and its legend read; the message that was etched in stone told humans we are not alone. ‘I too have life.’”
It is difficult to imagine how a rock from the surface of Mars could land on our own planet. In fact, it wasn’t until we discovered meteorites that we could clearly identify as Lunar (because we had collected samples on the Moon finding that it contained Mars bacteria was strongly bolstered when a form of magnetite—only produced by living processes—was found in ALH84001.
In October 2011 it was reported that isotopic analysis indicated that the carbonates in ALH84001 were precipitated at a temperature of 64° F with water and carbon dioxide from the Martian atmosphere. According to Wikipedia, the carbonate carbon and oxygen isotope ratios imply deposition of the carbonates from a gradually evaporating subsurface water body, probably a shallow aquifer meters or tens of meters below the surface.
It is a little known fact that the meteorite that was the basis of the NASA announcement of Martian microfossils is just one chapter in an expanding story of exobiology from Mars. For example, a second category of meteorites, known as the Carbonaceous Chondrites or CIs, have been identified as Martian by John Brandenburg, and they contain microfossils in far greater abundance than ALH84001, more like what we’d expect to find at the bottom of a pond on Earth. And that doesn’t even begin to illuminate the discoveries of microfossils in other rocks from “out there somewhere.”
At the turn of the twentieth century there was a theory that the Universe was throbbing with life and this life traveled from one cosmic body to another as spores driven by solar pressure. This theory, known as Panspermia, was advanced by a scientist named Svante August Arrenhius. Though Arrenhius won a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1903 for his work on electrolysis, the scientific community did not adopt his notion of Panspermia. In fact, it was ridiculed. Nevertheless, our understanding that life can survive under very extreme conditions has changed much in recent years. We now know that on Earth it is possible for life to thrive deep within hot water vents at the bottom of the ocean, deep under Antarctic ice, in volcanic lava, and even inside nuclear reactors. Does it remain inconceivable that life could survive in the frigid cold of outer space?
A Tale of Two Planets
As described in a recent paper by Richard C. Hoagland and Michael Bara, “A New Model of Mars…” Martian history can be uncovered in other parts of the solar system. The paper can be found at www.enterprisemission.com/tides.htm.
While most think of the solar system as stable and predictable, evidence to the contrary streaks through our atmosphere daily as meteors—shattered planetary remains rich in inner core materials. Mars has been nearly destroyed by them.
Mars emerged five billion years ago, we are told, as an independent planet, considerably less dense than Earth, but abundant in water and all the necessities for life. Described in the Hoagland/Bara paper as a “Garden of Eden” planet, Mars had an Earthlike environment then and laid down vast sedimentary formations, as documented by the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS). This lasted through 450 million years of relative planetary peace until roughly 500 million years ago, when a bully arrived and took over the neighborhood, the empty space between Mars and Jupiter. The bully was what some researchers, among them the late national astronomer, Tom Van Flandern, call Planet V. It too was part of the original solar system, had its own moons, and was wandering about. There was a “fight” (a clash of energies and momenta). “Blood” was spilled. But when it was all done, Mars had become just another moon of Planet V.
The gravitational pull from the bully planet progressively slowed Mars from 12 hours per rotation to more like 24, caused tidal bulges to develop at the equator, and put immense stress upon the Martian crust and interior. The tides, of a power and size dwarfing anything ever seen on Earth, scoured great trenches on Mars.
Things continued thus until some 65 million years ago, when catastrophe struck. The liberation of Mars came again but with a devastating carpet-bombing that all but destroyed the planet and other parts of the solar system—an event which coincided with the death of the dinosaurs.
Another former member of the solar system mentioned in the paper is called Planet K. In the Hoagland/Bara model, planetary perturbations 65 million years ago caused it to wander right across the path of Mars, upsetting its spin axis and leaning it over some sixty degrees, before smashing headlong into Planet V and unleashing an explosion that reduced both to giant bits 4 to 5 times the mass of Earth. The newly exposed side of Mars was squarely in the path of this explosion and received not only a shotgunning of smaller, more energetic, debris but soon thereafter the huge, slower pieces, which smashed into the surface with tremendous force, excavating many of the enormous craters that we see today. According to Hoagland and Bara, this is why Mars is both lopsided and so weird in terms of geological age measurements. The protected side is the crust as it was, and is accordingly thin, but the exposed side has an enormous accretion of Planet V’s guts slathered across it. Consequently, it is much thicker than its relatively undamaged counterpart, as well as being of an entirely different composition. This interaction of Mars with Planet K, just prior to the cataclysmic collision of Planet K with Planet V, is also why the heavy southern hemisphere cratering on Mars does not straddle the planet’s current equator.
But long before the big chunks arrived the real damage had been done. The withering initial simultaneous barrage of millions of half-mile diameter rocks had simply blown away much of the Martian atmosphere, sending it forever into space. And the instant release from the strong gravity of Planet V when it was destroyed had freed the Martian oceans, which snapped back to their former global extent, unleashing tidal waves beyond description, which widened and deepened the already existing Valles Marineris (initially begun when Mars was captured, a half billion years before) to over three miles deep and 3000 miles long—the largest known canyon in the entire solar system.
A nuclear-winter-like phenomenon then occurred, with a massive drop in temperature leading to the formation of the well-known Martian polar icecaps and the disappearance of the remainder of Mars’ water beneath the outer crust, driven by the inexorable demands of spin, pressure, and temperature.
Nor was all well in the rest of the solar system. Venus, according to Hoagland and Bara, impacted by the spreading wave of interplanetary debris from the collision, took such a pounding that its surface was totally re-melted, removing all the old craters, superheating and contaminating the atmosphere, literally knocking the planet into its baffling retrograde spin; Iapetus, one of Saturn’s icy moons in the outer solar system, was also plastered by the wave of carbon-rich debris heading outward from the sun, emerging with one light half and one dark—as the most asymmetric colored natural object in the solar system. Earth too had an asteroid drop in, which blasted the Yucatan peninsula, taking with it the dinosaurs. Van Flandern thought, and Hoagland and Bara agree, that the deadly planetary collision also accounted for the existence now of both asteroids and comets. The accelerating discovery of more and more asteroid satellites, pooh-poohed only a few years ago by planetary scientists as “dynamically impossible,” is fundamental evidence of their formation in this recent planetary cataclysm.
Certainly any future colonizers from Earth will have plenty to investigate when they arrive on the Mars. Some of what they find may provide a cautionary tale for their home planet.