Was There Once
- Dear Friends,Here's an article about Mac Tonnies and his book "After The Martian Apocalypse."Love and Light.DavidWas there once
Author Mac Tonnies makes a case
A face stares into the heavens.
It's surrounded by long-silent ruins, keeping watch for a civilization millions of years dead.
Somewhere on Earth?
Nope. Try Mars.
Author Mac Tonnies thinks there's life on our nearest planetary neighbor. Maybe there's no longer intelligent life - as he postulates in his book "After the Martian Apocalypse: Extraterrestrial Artifacts and the Case for Mars Exploration" - but he thinks life's there nonetheless.
"Carl Sagan finally said it is scientifically testable," Tonnies said about the late astronomer who was once a skeptic of extraterrestrial life. "That's where I'm coming from in the book."
Martian life may now be only microbes, vague remnants of more complex life forms.
Earthbound eyes have looked toward Mars for centuries. The ancient Greeks saw Mars with the naked eye, in the late 1800s Professor Percival Lowell thought he saw canals on the surface of Mars, and Orson Welles scared the bejesus out of America in 1938 with his "War of the Worlds" broadcast.
In the mid-1970s, NASA sent the Viking probes to Mars in hopes of discovering life on the Red Planet.
"Of the Viking tests, two of three tested positive," Tonnies said, noting with disdain that although the tests hinted at organic life, NASA disputed the results. "I think it's a given there's at least microbial life on Mars."
Tonnies, an author and graduate of Independence's William Chrisman High School and Ottawa University, has more than just a passing connection with the Red Planet. He was born Aug. 20, 1975 - the day NASA launched the Viking Mission to Mars.
Tonnies, 29, is unimposing - tall, thin, bespectacled - until he speaks, throwing out head-scratching, multisyllabic words with the ease of a college pitcher striking out eight graders.
"I'm a writer, first and foremost," he said. "That's what I do."
Tonnies' first book was a collection of short stories, "Illumined Black and Other Adventures," published in 1995 and still available on Amazon.com.
"I consider myself a fiction writer," he said, but he's really interested in Mars.
An editor looking at Tonnies' fiction was also familiar with Tonnies' Martian Web site. So the editor pitched a book idea, and Tonnies agreed.
"It was a very good publishing deal."
"After the Martian Apocalypse" scientifically explores anomalous structures on Mars, which probes have photographed multiple times. Structures with names like the "face," the "D&M pyramid" and the "city."
From the photographs, these structures look symmetrical and suspiciously artificial.
"It started with the face," Tonnies said of an human-like helmeted face - complete with two eyes, a nose and mouth - first photographed in 1976 staring into space from a region of Mars dubbed Cydonia. "NASA waved (the humanoid appearance) off as a trick of light and shadows. And that was it. But they took another picture."
That picture, taken from a different angle under different lighting conditions, showed the same thing - a giant humanoid face on the surface of Mars.
NASA took another picture of the face in 1998. This picture - admittedly doctored by NASA, according to Tonnies - revealed an uneven, natural surface life-on-Mars enthusiasts dubbed "the catbox." That picture, according to NASA, proved the face was just a natural, windswept structure.
The face crowd cried foul.
Tonnies and other proponents of life on Mars, such as the movement's poster child Richard C. Hoagland, are convinced the scientific community is covering up the idea of intelligent life on our neighbor.
"Tom Van Flanders (a Ph.D. who has spoken out on Martian life) has come to the conclusion that the face and other anomalies are indisputable evidence that there was life on Mars," he said.
The face, and other curious features in the Cydonia region, have been run through programs that search for man-made structures, Tonnies said. These same programs were used to pick hidden man-made items - such as vehicles - out of satellite images taken during the Gulf War. Because vehicles have a symmetrical structure, the computer determined the images were artificial.
The results from the Mars analysis are that some of the structures on Mars are artificial, Tonnies said.
"The face has quantifiable features a computer can recognize. If we saw these things on Earth (from satellite) we'd immediately call in archeologists," Tonnies said. "It's just silly, bad science."
In 1976, NASA steered the Viking probes away from the Cydonia region, Tonnies said.
"They were going to land the Viking in Cydonia," he said. "And they took a picture of the face and changed their minds.
"NASA said the terrain is too bumpy. Then they land them in a field of boulders."
And in 2003, NASA again avoided the Cydonia region with the Spirit and Opportunity landers. This mission, still under way, was to determine if there was life on Mars.
But the rovers weren't equipped to detect current life, they were equipped to help scientists study Martian geology.
"The reason JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a branch of NASA in charge of Mars exploration) is averse to finding life, their study of Mars is purely geological," Tonnies said. "Steve Squires, the head of the rover team, was looking at (a picture of an) organic thing and he said 'it's driving me crazy. I can't explain it.'
"Well, maybe if you'd get out of your geologic module."
But maybe finding life on Mars won't be left up to JPL. The European Space Agency has also studied the Red Planet and has come up with some interesting findings.
Such as methane, a fragile gas with a limited life span. Methane is created by either recent organic or volcanic activity - and scientists have never detected recent volcanic activity on Mars.
ESA may have also detected another organic compound on Mars - ammonia. The results, however, are inconclusive.
Much like bigfoot having primate expert Jane Goodall in its corner, the life-on-Mars believers have theirs.
Arthur C. Clarke, a heavy-hitter in the science and science-fiction communities who invented satellite communication and wrote such books as 2001: A Space Odyssey and Childhood's End, is convinced there's life on Mars.
Clarke has dubbed Martian 3D vegetation-like structures that NASA has photographed growing and waning with the seasons "banyan trees."
JPL has claimed what Clarke and others have seen is melting frost.
"That's where JPL is being disingenuous. They're not talking about the banyan trees," Tonnies said. "The closest NASA has come to addressing the banyan trees is suggesting Arthur C. Clarke is a little bit eccentric.
"I think we should listen to him."
If Tonnies is right and Mars not only once supported intelligent life, but even now supports some form of microbial or vegetative life, what happened to the Red Planet? More importantly, what happened to the intelligent life?
"Mars was destroyed by a relatively sudden event," Tonnies said. "A planet exploding."
A rocky planet exploding in the proximity of Mars would explain why one side of Mars was pummeled by meteors, why an asteroid belt exists between Mars and Jupiter, and why intelligent life there may have died.
"Mainstream science thinks of (change in the) the solar system as very gradual, but it's warming to the idea of a geographical catastrophe on Mars is very sudden," he said. "We need to go to Mars and find out what happened and if it will happen here."
Then the face, the pyramid and other structures may be the last pieces of the Martian civilization ... Or maybe not.
Tonnies thinks it's possible there was once a civilization right here that was technologically advanced enough to make the trip through space.
"We're finding that there was once a seafaring culture that predated the Egyptians. So it could have been an earth culture," he said. "But it could also be an indigenous species on Mars."
Then, why is it a humanoid face?
"I think life on Earth was created by comets. I think we have extraterrestrial life on earth (not-of-this-earth microbes scientists have recently found living in the upper atmosphere). Dialogue between planets has been happening for years. We'll find out we're relatives."
Whatever you think, never ask Tonnies if he "believes" there was once life on Mars. You may not like his answer.
"I don' like that word 'belief,'" he said. "Once you believe in something, the part of your brain that believes atrophies."
"After the Martian Apocalypse: Extraterrestrial Artifacts and the Case for Mars Exploration," is published by Paraview PocketBooks, a division of Simon & Schuster. You can find it at Amazon.com, barnesandnobel.com, www.borders.com, or at Tonnies' Web site, www.mactonnies.com.