by James Burk

September 20, 2002
from MarsNews Website


MarsNews has undertaken a major study of the 1988-89 Phobos 2 mission, prompted by our desire to confirm the recently highlighted IR data of the Hydraote Chaos region - allegedly showing city-like terrain.


We have confirmed that image, and have apparently opened a "Pandora's Box" in the process.



Confirmation of Phobos 2 Image

We are certain that the image below (which we have captured from original video, cropped & resized) was acquired by Phobos 2 on March 1st, 1989:

(Courtesy Channel 4 TV)

The source for the above image is a September 1989 Channel 4 (UK) news story on the Russian Phobos 2 mission.


This video, never broadcast in the United States media (to our knowledge), was made after an historic yet little-known press conference in London was given by Phobos 2 scientists from the Soviet Union. The scientists presented almost all their data from the mission and reported, among other things, that this terrain was apparently real and unexplained.


It showed up in both visible and infrared images taken by Phobos 2, as you can see below in this composite from the same source.

(Courtesy Channel 4 TV)

In the Channel 4 report, Dr. John Becklake of the London Science Museum stated,

"The city-like pattern is 60 kilometers wide and could easily be mistaken for an aerial view of Los Angeles... We have some very, very thin lines on the surface of Mars, in the infrared, which means its heat, and its not visible, its heat... these have a width of 3-4 kilometers wide. As for the question of what it is: I don't know, and the Russians aren't telling us."

Clearly he was considered an expert by the Russians and the UK media.


At the time of the above-mentioned press conference, it was Dr. Becklake (alone) who was reportedly given a set of 35 black & white high-resolution photos taken by Phobos 2 by the Soviet scientists. MarsNews is currently attempting to track down those photos. Dr. Becklake now works at the Herstmonceux Science Centre in the UK (click on the link for his contact info).

This image of Hydraote Chaos came up in the latest Cydonia controversy.


Does IR data taken from Odyssey (the exact same dataset mentioned in our previous reports) show evidence of artificial, city-like terrain?


If you go to the Enterprise Mission website, you can see comparisons of this Phobos 2 image with filtered versions of the high-resolution Cydonia IR images provided by an apparent NASA "deep throat" to Enterprise Mission (discussed in our previous report, Did NASA Fake Data to Hide Mars Anomalies?)


While we still take a neutral stance on that filtered Cydonia image, this Phobos 2 data can now be considered as the real data released by the Phobos 2 mission scientists.


If it is a fake/hoax, it was perpetrated by the Soviets back in 1989, something we consider highly unlikely.



The Plot Thickens...

We mentioned in a previous report that NASA/ASU/THEMIS has released at this point a single nighttime IR image from the Mars Odyssey spacecraft.


Coincidentally (perhaps), the image is from the same region:

Hydaspis Chaos, not far from Hydraotes Chaos. (seen in the above Phobos 2 image)

Let's take a look at that image, taken from this page on the NASA/THEMIS website:


Our opinion (shared by many independent researchers) is that this may be another example of somewhat city-like terrain on Mars, allegedly not natural.


This image was acquired on February 19, 2002, according to the NASA/THEMIS website. Yet it was released on March 1, 2002, exactly thirteen years after the Phobos 2 image was acquired! Even if this turns out to be natural terrain, it must be stated that that is a remarkable coincidence.


Is NASA trying to get us to "read between the lines", as it were?



Whither Phobos 2?

Finally, we turn to the issue of what exactly happened to Phobos 2.


Everybody agrees on when the Phobos 2 mission ended:

on or around March 27, 1989, as the probe was to come within 50 meters (160 feet) of Mars's moon Phobos, contact was lost. Contact was never reestablished. Subsequent reports by the Phobos 2 team, notably in the October 19, 1989 issue of "Nature", state that the spacecraft was spinning due to either a computer malfunction or an "impact event" by an unknown object.

Many publications over the years have reported on what is allegedly the last photograph taken by Phobos 2.


This photograph was revealed in December 1991 by Marina Popovich, a famous Soviet test pilot sometimes called the "Russian Chuck Yeager" due to the 17 aviation world records she holds. She claimed that the photograph was given to her by cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, who was the first man to walk in space and also a high official in the Soviet space program, and that she had "smuggled it out" of the former USSR.


The photograph apparently shows Phobos 2 and an unknown cylindrical object:

(Courtesy Don Ecker, UFO Magazine)

Popovich claimed that the image, taken on March 25, 1989, was the last one taken by Phobos 2.

"The photo is only information for thinking... information for all kinds of decisions," commented Popovich.


"No one can answer precisely what it is," stated Dr. James Harder, Professor Emeritus at Berkeley.

It could be an artifact of Phobos 2's camera, or a previously undiscovered moonlet, or even what it apparently looks like, some type of "UFO".



"The reasons for [Phobos 2's] disappearance are unknown," as Popovich said at the time.

Why do we bring this up now? (I'm sure some of you are cringing that we are reporting on a possible UFO, read on...)


Because, MarsNews has found independent confirmation of that photograph, in (of all places) the NASA Planetary Data System (PDS) archive! Our conclusion at this time, due to the different versions of the image we've acquired from deep within the PDS archive, is that the "UFO" is an artifact of the camera. However, we are keeping an open mind, as all good journalists should do.


Due to the controversial nature of this particular subject, we are seeking further independent study of these (apparently official) photos, and we will post what we have found in a future report.



A Final Note...

One final point we'd like to make.


Mars's moon Phobos is playing an interesting role in the current efforts by international space agencies to engage in a Sample Return mission.

As previously reported on MarsNews, a private Russian firm is working on a sample return mission to be launched to Phobos in 2007, while current NASA estimates of a U.S.-led Sample Return mission would be launched no earlier than 2013.


Publicly and privately, NASA officials have stated that,

"Phobos is not a priority target of the United States science community."

Why not, if it can be done faster, cheaper (and perhaps, better)? Could it be there is more to Phobos (and Phobos 2) than is reported in the mainstream U.S. media?