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Did Gerry Soffen lie about the second orbit of Viking 1?

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posted on Oct, 22 2012 @ 12:26 PM
(adapted with permission from the 'Emoluments of Mars' blog]

It's a familiar theme of Mars 'anomalists' that Gerry Soffen, Chief Scientist of the highly successful Viking program of 1976, lied about the "Face on Mars" image captured on 25th July 1976 and first noticed by Tobias Owen.

Here's their standard story. Gerry showed the "Face" image -- Frame 35A72 -- to the press in the Von Karman auditorium, chuckled, and added "On the next orbit, it all went away. The feature looked quite different." This was when he called the mesa the oft-quoted "trick of light and shadow." The anomalists claim that Gerry must have been lying, because by the time the Viking 1 orbiter came over that latitude again, Cydonia would have moved hundreds of miles due to the natural rotation of the planet. The orbiter was in a more or less polar orbit.

They're thinking of a typical Earth-satellite situation, where the so-called "walk rate" is typically about 22.5° of longitude. The period of a low reconnaissance-type orbit is ~90 min, and (360° x 1.5)/24 = 22.5. However, the situation at Mars in 1976 was very, very different. The Martian day is 24.622 hours -- very similar to that of Earth. However, the Viking orbiter's orbit was much higher -- 1513 x 33,000 km, and its period was, guess what? 24.66 hours. Almost the same as the rotation rate of the planet it was spinning around. Now the calculation is (360° x 24.66)/24.622. = 360.55°. In other words, the walk rate of Viking 1 was only 0.55°. That works out to only 32 km on the ground, at the sub-satellite point. The orbital camera could surely have re-photographed "Owen Mesa" with relative ease.

So I'm calling out those who have called Gerry Soffen a liar. PROVE YOUR POINT OR APOLOGIZE. That would be you, Richard Hoagland. That would be you, Mike Bara.

ref: Viking Orbiter 1 Mission Profile

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