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Viking 2 Lander and Cydonia

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posted on May, 2 2004 @ 11:53 PM
Attached is a short article (about 1500 words) regarding a controversy I do not believe has been given enough analysis. It regards the intriguing saga behind the selection of the landing site for the Viking 2 Lander. It is absolutely certain that Cydonia was imaged extensively before the first Viking Lander touched down on Mars. What follows is the genesis of the story of the discovery of Martian anomalies. It lays the groundwork for the intense cover-up we have seen regarding Cydonia, which continues up to this day.

(The Mission B-1 Landing Site Selection of the Viking 2 Lander)

I understand that there were 8 separate groups which had input into the final decision of the landing site selection for the Viking 2 Lander. They were, in order of importance and input (with 1 being the most influential down to 8 being the least);

(1) Viking Project Office, Langley Virginia (headed by Jim Martin)
(2) Office of Space Science, NASA Headquarters (headed by John Naugle)
(3) Landing Site Steering Committee (aka Landing Site Selection (LSS) Committee)
(4) Science Steering Group
(5) Landing Site Working Group
(6) United States Geological Survey, Astrogeological Studies Branch, Flagstaff Arizona (headed by Hal Masursky, Senior Geologist)
(7) Martin Marietta Corporation (Denver Division)
(8) Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)

The Viking landing sites were selected from Mariner 9 images of the landing sites and earth-based data (radar-mapping). Data analysis experts that had previously worked on Apollo knew that NO pictures of a potential landing site meant immediate exclusion from consideration. As a result, Mariner 9 began its “extended mission” on 4 June 1972 to complete the mapping of Mars AND, on the recommendation of the Landing Site Working Group, to photograph ALL 35 potential landing sites for the Viking Landers. 1 potential landing site was CYDONIA, according to NASA’s own public records.
By July 15 1972 Mariner 9 had taken 3 narrow-angle high-resolution Camera B frames and 1 wide-angle Camera A frame of Cydonia (which was designated number 16 of 35 potential landing sites, and located at 44.3 degrees N, 10 degrees). The B-frame images obtained covered the entire potential landing ellipse, had a resolution of 60 metres and covered an area 16.4 x 20.8 kilometres. The A-frame image had a resolution of 800 metres and covered an area 164 x 108 kilometres.
By 28 September 1972 all the potential landing sites for the Viking Landers had been examined IN DETAIL by the Landing Site Working Group. Ten potential landing sites were selected. Cydonia was not one of these sites.
In October 1972 Hal Masursky and William Baum of the Planetary Research Center at Lowell Observatory recommended changes in the 10 selected potential landing sites. By December 1972 Mariner 9 had imaged all of Mars and mapped the entire planet. The biologists wanted to find water, so Cydonia became a target once more, primarily due to the belief that fossilised water could be found there. It was theorised that if the pressure was 7.8 millibars or higher, and if the temperature rose above freezing point, then liquid water would be found at Cydonia.
In February 1973 the Landing Site Steering Committee met at Langley, Virginia. Carl Sagan was there and believed that the landing sites should be selected based on radar imaging (which showed irregularities on the 10-cm scale) rather than photographic images. Hal Masursky considered Cydonia to be the optimal landing site for Viking 2, due to its low smooth plains and because, according to the available data, there was a great chance of finding atmospheric water at the site.
In a Memo dated 20 February 1973 John Naugle reported to NASA Administrator James Fletcher about the “presence of water issue” that:

“It appears that the regions most recently studied by the Viking Landing Site Working Group may not be good sites from the point of view of availability of liquid water because of low temperatures, even though large amounts of water ice are known to exist.”

(Remember that NASA denied water ice existed for over two decades!)

On 22 February 1973 James Fletcher returned the Memo to John Naugle with a handwritten message in the margin that said:

“John N-
I have two questions.
(1) Does Lederberg (& his committee) agree that the chances of life are best at 73degrees?
(2) Does liquid water have to exist now or could it have existed once, for life “signatures” to be detected?
From my own point of view, the main reason to consider polar landings was to increase the probability of finding life, not to study vastly different geological regions.


On 2 April 1973 the Landing Site Working Group recommended potential landing sites 16 and 17 as the Mission B (Viking 2 Lander) landing sites. The Science Steering Group MADE THE DECISION that potential landing site number 16 (44.3 degrees N, 10 degrees) as the Mission B-1 primary site and potential landing site number 17 (44.2 degrees N, 110 degrees) as the Mission B-2 backup site. The Viking landing site destinations were announced to the public on 7 May 1973.
Hal Masursky asked David Scott to make a special hazard map for the B-1 site from the available Mariner 9 photographs of the Cydonia region. After sighting this map, Masursky become nervous. He directed that pictures of the B-1 site be taken on periapsis 9 (orbit number 9).
On 28 June 1976 The Viking 1 Orbiter’s cameras took their first photos of the Viking 2 Lander’s B-1 primary landing site at Cydonia from a height of 2050 kilometres above the Martian surface. Two photographs taken on 28 June 1976 were released to the public (the first was taken at 43degrees N latitude, 7.6degrees longitude, the second was taken at 42.4 degrees N latitude, 7.3 degrees longitude). On 25 July 1976 Jim Martin told the press and public that the Viking 1 Orbiter’s mission objectives had changed and that:

“We’re going into an orbit which will allow us to spend some time observing three possible north latitudes. Two of them are known as B-1 and B-2. …We’ve spent a fair amount of energy looking for landing sites in B-1; so far we haven’t seen anything I would like to put an ellipse in.”

At the 27 July 1976 Landing Site Working Group meeting Hal Masursky said that he had found a number of suitable landing spots at the B-1 site.
On 17 August 1976 the Landing Site Steering Committee (which was made up of a group of “independent scientists” whose job was to advise Jim Martin) met and secretly decided to drop Cydonia as the primary landing site for the Viking 2 Lander. At this closed meeting 6 new sets of pictures taken of Cydonia were produced and shown to the Committee. The Landing Site Working Group would never see these photos. Later that day, at the 42nd meeting of the Landing Site Working Group, Hal Masursky was informed of this decision. Hal Masursky screamed in protest that Jim Martin and the Landing Site Steering Committee had not:

“…even looked at the rest of the pictures in the B-2 area.”

After storming out of the 42nd meeting which lasted a mere 15 minutes (the 41 previous meetings had each lasted for many hours), Hal Masursky was confused and upset. Asked about the decision made in the lightning meeting, Hal Masursky answered like a shell-shocked war veteran:

“We had committed the project to landing at B-3 where we had zero data.”

A new landing site had been selected for the Viking 2 Lander. It was designated B-3 and was situated at Utopia Plantia (47.9degrees N, 225.9degrees). At the time of the meeting, the few pictures available of the B-3 landing site were terrible. They were Mariner 9 images (A frames) obtained in low resolution. Hal Masursky was TOLD by one of the members of the Landing Site Steering Committee before the 21 August 1976 meeting of the Landing Site Working Group that:

“Viking 2 Lander must land somewhere at B-3. Period.”

A special meeting of the Landing Site Steering Committee was held on 22 August 1976 and Hal Masursky was asked to attend. Amongst those present at this meeting were Jim Martin, Carl Sagan, Hugh Keiffer, Tom Young, Gentry Lee and a number of unidentified participants. Photos of the various landing site selections obtained from the Viking 2 Orbiter’s camera on periapsis 20 were shown. At the meeting Jim Martin was asked by Hal Masursky about the new landing site selection and how it was not as safe as the original Cydonia B-1 site:

“Do you call 155 foot high sand dunes a better landing area?”

To which Jim Martin replied:

“Well let me say that there was not unanimity in the selection of this landing site. My job is much easier when everybody gets up and says let’s go this direction. Well, here we had a case where people were wanting to go in a couple of different directions. I still believe that from my own knowledge of sand dunes, that we can land on essentially any sand dune in the United States. I think it is very intolerant to big rocks. So I would trade sand dunes for big rocks any day.”

On 30 August 1976 the final coordinates of Viking Lander 2’s landing site were chosen. It was to land at the eastern end of Utopia Planitia, at 47.89degrees N, 225.86degrees.
On 3 September 1976 the Viking 2 Lander touched down at approximately this location on the Martian surface.

Sebastian Wood
Independent Investigator

Postscript: I have plenty more to add to my article. Included are the events that transpired after the selection of the landing sites and the public announcement of them in 1973 and the first photos returned by the Viking 1 Orbiter. Many strange meetings were held. The Russians came into the “game” with their Mars orbiters and landers (which most people regarded as failures). In fact, Mars 4 was the first lander to achieve a soft-landing on Mars way back in 1973.

Postscript for Masursky (after the Viking 2 Landing);
Masursky also worked on polar axis shift measurements of Mars and seemed to have become obsessed with Cydonia, after it was scrapped as the Viking 2 Landing Site. He had “hidden” a diagram in his 1977 piece “Classification and Time of Formation of Martian channels based on Viking data”. The diagram related to future Mars/Earth Polar Axis shifts. This was his protest, his Cydonian “clue” to the scientific community. Now, I understand from reading Hoagland’s “Monuments Of Mars” that he was friends with Masursky, and that he first said there was water on Mars after sighting Mariner 9 images, and that subsequently he changed his tune. Hoagland is wrong on this key issue, Masursky always claimed that liquid water existed to this day on Mars. In fact, I understand that at a 1985 “SDI” (Star Wars) conference that Masursky was still pushing the Cydonia issue, even to the extent that Sagan collaborated with him to promote a joint US/Soviet manned mission to Mars to explore specifically, Cydonia.

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