by Michael Lindemann
August 9, 1996
Yes, by now just about every sentient being within range of a radio or TV probably knows that NASA held a positively stunning press conference on Wednesday, August 7, to announce evidence of possible primitive life found within a meteorite from Mars.
No need to rehearse the details here -- we expect you've heard them all before. But it does seem relevant to repeat an item we wrote in the August 1 edition of the ISCNI*Flash, a scant six days before the ANNOUNCEMENT. To wit:
"Here at the Flash, we note with both amusement and fascination a gradual but unmistakable shift in the public statements of space scientists regarding prospects for life on other planets. It is now considered virtually certain that life exists elsewhere in the universe, on other planets circling other stars. But just as significant, it is increasingly acceptable to propose the possibility of life -- albeit primitive, or even extinct -- on very nearby worlds, including Mars and the moons of Jupiter. If we were in charge of gradually preparing the public for the 'discovery' of aliens, we might use this strategy too!"
And so we might. It is notable that the public reaction to this NASA announcement was resoundingly, stupendously positive. It is also notable that the scientists who presented the information, along with NASA chief administrator Daniel Goldin, seemed hardly able to contain their own enthusiasm. Though each of them in turn articulated the necessary (and appropriate) caveats -- "these are preliminary findings that suggest, but do not PROVE, life on Mars, and much more work is needed to confirm them," etc. -- the TONE of the affair seemed to say, "By God, this is true until proven otherwise!" The net result, despite various skeptical protests, was to implant in the public mind the virtual certainty that life did (perhaps does?) exist on Mars.
And of course, that is a very big deal. But you know that already.
We were pleased to see that a representative of Operation Right to Know got in a question at the press conference, a very important one concerning NASA's plans (or non-plans) to re-image the Cydonia region of Mars (site of the famous Face) during the upcoming missions that will arrive at Mars next summer. Daniel Goldin, amazingly, all but promised that the Cydonia region WOULD be re-imaged, though he also stated it was not a top priority. Now that Goldin's assurances are public knowledge, it is important to INSIST that any new images of Cydonia be given over without delay to impartial, independent scientists for evaluation.
We were also pleased to see that CNN invited Richard "Mr. Face on Mars" Hoagland to be a featured guest on their "Talk Back Live" program immediately following the press conference. Richard, true to form but very appropriately, said the entire affair smacked of politics. We confess we must agree.
It is also notable that President Clinton -- after making his own enthusiastic remarks about the discovery on the White House lawn just before the Wednesday press conference -- is vacationing in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, this week. This can only mean, we think, that he's staying at the ranch of Laurance Rockefeller, the billionaire who earlier this year funded and privately circulated the "Unidentified Flying Objects Briefing Document," and who has waged a quiet campaign for at least three years to persuade the Clinton administration to release UFO information. We marvel at the coincidence of NASA's announcement and Clinton's vacation.
So much more could be said... But perhaps we'll leave it right there for the moment. One thing is certain -- this is not the end of it. It feels more like the beginning.
Original file name: .CNI - Mars Op
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