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NASA Turnabout, or Empty Promise?

 NASA Turnabout, or Empty Promise?
 Copyright c 1996 by Stanley V. McDaniel
 >From :
 Oct. 16 -- NASA officials stunned those interested in the Martian
 anomalies by announcing that near-real-time imagery from the Cydonia
 region would be transmitted by the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS).
 (Near-real-time is sometimes called "live" transmission with only the
 minimal delay required for travel of the signal through space and
 conversion of the data to viewable form.)
 What does the NASA announcement really mean?
 At first glance it would seem that NASA has reversed its policy from
 that in effect for the Mars Observer in 1993. At that time there were no
 plans to provide near-real-time continuous data feed. Various reasons
 were given as to why there could be hours of delay time even for the few
 images that would be released to the public in advance of the
 proprietary period of six months allocated to the Camera Principal
 A summary of the previous policy may be found in The McDaniel Report,
 page 23:
    "NASA's plan for Mars Observer images was that they would not be
    broadcast directly to the public as they come in. No plan either to
    take or to release pictures specifically of the AOC landforms was
    articulated; a few hard-copy photographs of "selected features" were
    to be released within weeks after transmission; in a last-minute
    decision made under public pressure, "selected" images were also to
    be made available for viewing at two or three sites around the
    country with no general release to NASA Select-TV; there was no
    guarantee that any of these images would include the AOC landforms;
    and the full data set, which under present priorities might not
    include high-resolution photographs of the AOC landforms in any case,
    could be delayed for as long as six months."
 The recent NASA announcement not only appears to be a 180 degree policy
 reversal on data release, but also appears to conform in part to the
 recommendations from The McDaniel Report, which have been sent to NASA
 officials over the past months by many readers of this Newsletter around
 the nation.
 Specifically, NASA not only stated there will be near-real-time data
 feed to the public from both Mars Pathfinder and Mars Global Surveyor,
 but also stated that scientists and the general public would be notified
 in advance as the Surveyor approaches the Cydonia region, location of
 the Face and other anomalous objects. This was one of the important
 recommendations in The McDaniel Report.
 Thus there is the impression that the main goal of the Mars anomaly
 investigation, to obtain better images of Cydonia, has been satisfied.
 But is this truly the case?
 What Has Been Left Out
 Unfortunately several important items have been left out of the picture:
 Which camera on the Mars Global Surveyor will provide the near-real-time
 If it is the mapping camera (which will map the entire surface of the
 planet over an extended period), the resolution is too low to afford
 useful information regarding the anomalies. If it is the high resolution
 camera, only a very small percentage of the Martian surface will be
 involved (one or two percent) and the acquisition of images will be
 heavily governed by target priorities (discussed below).
 How does the NASA announcement impact the proprietary contract JPL has
 with Dr. Michael Malin?
 Dr. Malin is a private contractor with JPL and is the Camera Principal
 Investigator. By his own admission, he has control of the camera, the
 target selection, and the priorities for the Global Surveyor Camera.
 Unlike previous NASA missions, the camera on the MGS is not a "facility
 instrument" whose output falls immediately within the public's control.
 Instead Dr. Malin has proprietary rights which allow him to retain all
 camera data for a period of up to six months before releasing it to the
 general public.  Heretofore only "selected images" would be released by
 him to the public prior to the expiration of the proprietary period.
 Has Dr. Malin agreed to waive his proprietary rights to high-resolution
 images of the Cydonia anomalies?
 Without an account of what arrangement NASA has made with Malin
 regarding proprietary rights, the NASA announcement is meaningless.
 Even if proprietary rights are waived, the question of priorities
 remains. Since the opportunities for high-resolution images of specific
 objects are limited, and since advance preparation is necessary to
 ensure imaging of high priority objects, the Cydonia structures may not
 be imaged with high resolution unless high priority is assigned.
 The NASA announcement said nothing about priorities, and in the previous
 press conference NASA Head Daniel Goldin said, in answer to a question
 from Elaine Douglas of Operation Right to Know, "you can't give priority
 to everything."
 Have the priorities for high-resolution imaging of the Cydonia anomalies
 been increased?
 In article on the NASA announcement, the Aerospace Daily for October 21
 quoted MGS scientist Arden Albee as saying that NASA has done all it can
 possibly do "in the framework of this mission" to deal with the Cydonia
 question. What does in the framework of this mission really mean?
 Presumably it means within the framework of currently existing
 priorities -- but that is inadequate, as pointed out in the article
 "Mars Global Surveyor Priorities" in this newsletter.
 The Aerospoce Daily article points out that the MGS in its mapping orbit
 will pass over any given area of Mars about 26 times during the Martian
 year of 687 days, and that this includes the area of the Face. But it is
 not the mapping resolution that is our concern. What has to be done is
 to activate the high resolution camera on each of the 26 passes over the
 region of the anomalies. The fact that the mapping (low resolution) will
 cover Cydonia is not the significant factor.
 On closer inspection, the NASA announcement begins to look more like a
 "placebo" than a meaningful commitment.
 NASA has been saying for some time now that it will "try" to get images
 of Cydonia. This new announcement actually appears to be nothing new.
 They will still "try" but will not tell us whether the priorities have
 been changed or whether Dr. Malin has waived his proprietary rights.
 Finally, we must consider how sincere NASA's interest in the Martian
 anomalies really is:
 What is NASA's real attitude toward re-imaging the anomalies?
 The Aerospace Daily characterizes the NASA initiative as one intended
 merely to satisfy "tabloid" claims of conspiracy, and then cites Arden
 Albee as referring to the "vocal face-on-mars lobby." Where are the
 references to the various independent scientists who have researched
 this area extensively?
 The purpose of re-imaging Cydonia with the high resolution camera should
 be one of scientific interest, not merely a palliative for the so-called
 "vocal lobby" which is still being treated with contempt and relegated
 to a tabloid mentality. NASA still does not publicly grant any
 legitimacy to the investigation of the anomalies as a scientific
 We must repeat what we have said many times before: NASA's top priority
 is for objects of the greatest scientific interest. If the Cydonia
 objects are accorded little or no scientific interest (which remains
 NASA's assessment), the priorities will not be adjusted accordingly. We
 must recall Goldin's statement "You can't give priority to everything."
 The images released in near-real-time to the public may be useless ones
 from the mapping camera.
 The MGS Camera operator Dr. Michael C. Malin may not have waived his
 proprietary rights to high-resolution images.
 There has apparently been no change in priorities, which means high
 resolution images are unlikely to be obtained.
 NASA's negative attitude toward the investigation appears unchanged.
 There are demonstrations planned for November 6 at JPL and at the NASA
 Kennedy Space Center. Their message to NASA should be:
           NASA: Raise the Priorities Now!
 -- and keep sending in those recommendations!!
 - end -
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