Though scientists didn't believe the image captured of Mars back in the 1970s showed a real face, they did want to get a better look at it. Once photographic imaging techniques had improved, they went in for a closer shot. In April 1998, the Mars Orbiter captured a picture 10 times sharper than the original photos. In these more detailed pictures, what had appeared to be eyes, nose and a mouth vanished into nothing more than what scientists had originally surmised -- a natural rock formation.
However, those who were convinced that this was a real image of a face were not appeased. Richard Hoagland claimed the image had been intentionally enhanced so much that the face disintegrated. So in 2001, the Mars Surveyor returned to take even higher resolution photos. By shooting the formation from different angles, it was able to put together a 3-D image. When NASA scientists analyzed the structure's height and dimensions, they found that it actually resembled a rock formation here on Earth -- the flat-topped mesa commonly found throughout the Southwest.
Though the photographs seemed to negate the idea of a face on Mars, they were nonetheless fascinating to geologists. Scientists say the formations may have sat on the edges of what was once a Martian ocean. They could have been formed by glaciers sliding slowly across the surface of the red planet. Or they could have been the result of wind and water erosion, just as rocks have been shaped here on Earth.
Martian enthusiasts may never give up on the idea of life on Mars, but scientists undoubtedly still have much more to learn about the red planet.
To learn more about other Martian mysteries and space conspiracies, investigate the links on the next page.