PASADENA — Nearly 25 years after an orbiting spacecraft caught the Red Planet “mugging” for the camera, NASA released the highest-resolution image yet of the so-called “Face on Mars.”
The new picture, taken by the camera aboard the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft on April 8 and released Thursday, shows the area in far sharper detail, but reduces any resemblance to a humanlike extraterrestrial.
Since the Viking 1 orbiter first photographed the hill on Mars in July 1976, its facelike features have stirred the imagination of those who believe it was carved by an alien civilization.
The face even played a minor role in the movie “Mission to Mars.”
National Aeronautics and Space Administration scientists say the interplay of light and shadow gave the hill the brooding anthropomorphic features that stood out in the Viking pictures.
Michael Malin, principal investigator of the Global Surveyor camera, said the new images show the area to be nothing more than a hill.
“I have no desire to discuss it with the true believers. They can’t be convinced, they don’t want to be convinced,” Malin said.
NASA’s Global Surveyor last turned to photograph the face in April 1998. The spacecraft arrived in orbit around Mars in 1997 and began its extended mission in February.
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