A Pyramid on Mars Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

A Pyramid on Mars

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Ever since Giovanni Schiaparelli announced that he had seen 'channels' on Mars in 1877, mankind has been fascinated with the idea that there is intelligent life on the red planet. This led to much Science Fiction, both good and bad, including HG Wells's War of the Worlds, Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles and Edgar Rice Burroughs's John Carter/Barsoom series of books.

In more recent years, the idea has arisen that there is a pyramid on Mars.

A Martian Odyssey

Perhaps the first reference to a Martian pyramid was in the short story 'A Martian Odyssey' by Stanley G Weinbaum in 1934. This story appears very childish to modern readers but was considered ground-breaking in its day. In it, a visitor from Earth goes on a journey on Mars and encounters many weird and wonderful sights. One thing he meets is an alien life-form that is silicon-based rather than carbon-based. It breathes in oxygen and breathes out silicon dioxide. Unlike carbon dioxide, which is a gas, silicon dioxide is a solid, being the principal constituent of quartz. This alien breathes out bricks, which it stacks up around itself in a pyramid shape. When the pyramid is complete, it bursts out, moves on a few hundred yards and starts again, leaving a line of pyramids behind it.

Doctor Who

The BBC cult science fiction series, Doctor Who, encountered a pyramid on Mars in October 1975, in an adventure entitled, predictably enough, 'Pyramids of Mars'. Featuring Tom Baker as the Doctor and Elisabeth Sladen as his trusty assistant, Sarah Jane Smith, this was one of the better Doctor Who adventures. A race of superhumans called the Osirians fought among themselves millennia ago and imprisoned the evil Sutekh in a pyramid on Mars. The war was observed by humans, causing the Osirians to be worshipped as gods by the Ancient Egyptians. An early-20th Century archaeologist discovers a portal in an Egyptian tomb which is linked to Sutekh's prison and sets out to free the Evil One, leaving the future of the world at stake, as usual.

Photos from Mars

In July 1976, Viking Orbiter 1, a space probe sent by NASA (The American National Aeronautics and Space Administration), took photos of a part of Mars from orbit. NASA planned to send a lander, so they examined these photos in detail to find a suitable landing site. NASA relies on state funding; to try and create a bit of interest among the general public, they issued a photo of a mountain they had spotted on Mars which looked like a giant human face. Nearby was another mountain in the shape of a giant five-sided pyramid.

Immediately the popular press got to work. The mountains were given the names the 'Face on Mars' and the 'D&M Pyramid' (after DiPietro and Molenaar who brought it to the attention of the public). The theory was put forward that they were artificially constructed by an alien civilisation, perhaps as signals to humanity. The photos supplied by NASA were re-examined in great detail and supposed alignments of mathematical significance were pointed out. Books were written on the subject. NASA was called upon to send another probe immediately to examine the mountains in more detail. Of course they refused, because space probes are expensive and nobody in NASA believed the mountains were anything other than mountains.

In 1996, NASA finally sent a probe, the Mars Global Surveyor, with the mission of mapping the entire surface of Mars. This project took it a couple of years. In April 1998, it provided more detailed photos of the Face and the Pyramid. They were revealed to be nothing more than naturally occurring mountains. Mankind, or at least a small part of it, had been fooled by the natural ability to recognise order in chaos, even when there is none.


It appears that if we want a pyramid on Mars, we'll have to build it ourselves!

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