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The Mars Global Surveyor team's first image of the Cydonia region of Mars (the area containing the "Face on Mars").
Click on image for full size
Courtesy of NASA

Face-Off!
News story originally written on April 8, 1998

The camera aboard the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) has imaged an area of the Cydonia Region of Mars. It was here that the 'Face on Mars' was first photographed by the 1976 Viking mission.

In the 20 years since the 'Face' was photographed, most scientists have held to the view that the image of the 'Face' was just a trick of light and shadow upon natural geological features. However, there were many believers of extraterrestial life who thought the image was showing what could have been part of an ancient city on Mars...shaped like a face to attract exploration of that area.

The range of the MGS image was taken at 444.21 kilometers whereas the Viking image was taken at a range of 1873 kilometers. That means that the more recent MGS image is more accurate. As one can see from the new MGS photo on the left, the 'Face' is more likely just a geological feature. "It's a butte, a mesa, a knob," said Michael Ravine, advanced projects manager at Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego, which operates Surveyor's camera. "Nothing jumps out at me and screams, 'This must have been built by the forces of intelligence'."

Because of the controversy involved about the 'Face on Mars', NASA has offered no opinion. Though it seems this two-decade face-off is coming to a close as the MGS has provided images of only geological features...

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