My previous post emphasized the need for archaeologists if "planetary SETI" is to contend with its radio-based predecessor. After all, if we find candidate artifacts on other worlds, it's likely they'll be extremely old. Mars, blanketed by dust and pocked with craters, is hardly an ideal location for preserving artificial structures. Although not as corrosive as Earth, the Red Planet boasts scars that hint at a geologically active past; anything constructed during Mars' tenure as a "living" planet is likely to have endured many of the same processes that have sculpted the planet into the wasteland we see today. If so, how tenable are NASA's casual dismissals of potential Martian artifacts?
When the face was reimaged in 1998, debunkers condescendingly noted the lack of "roads" and parked "flying saucers" that would conclusively demonstrate artificiality. But given Mars' age and geological history, superficial features like "roads" would be the last things one might reasonably expect to find -- unless, of course, Mars was home to an active alien civilization with a penchant for terrestrial architecture.
The fact that virtually no one seriously considered Mars to be home to an extant civilization was brushed aside to accommodate the skeptical community's need to shoot down the looming myth that the face has become in the decades since it was first photographed. Sadly, the opportunity to address the issue of extraterrestrial archaeology in scientific terms was squandered, leaving a residue of misconceptions that only fueled the "fringe's" obsession with conspiracy theories.
Fortunately, there's no reason we can't take up the case for unbiased, disciplined appraisal of candidate Martian artifacts. In future posts I'll explore options and possibilities that may lead the search for extraterrestrial intelligence in some unexpected directions.
This piece originally appeared at aboutSETI.com.