Thanks to Lan Fleming. Mr. Fleming is a NASA subcontractor employee working in computer simulations.

In April, 1998, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory produced a flat, grainy “enhancement” of the image taken by the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) of the “Face on Mars” in Cydonia. The enhancement was released immediately to the world news media only one day after the original image had been taken. What the enhancement showed was virtually unrecognizable as having any relationship to the face-like object seen in the earlier, lower-resolution, Viking Images. This enhancement of the MGS image has come to be known as the “Footprint” or “Catbox” enhancement, because some people thought it resembled those things more closely than it did a face. Because the “face” seemed to go away under the much higher resolution of the MGS camera, it has become generally believed that the question of the artificiality of the Face was answered conclusively in the negative. But the JPL enhancement can be shown to be a hoax.

A Fox News article posted on their web site September 8 article stated: “…according to the disparate band of believers who since the big letdown have kept the torch of artificiality burning on Web sites and in newsletters and books. They branded NASA’s image “the Catbox” or “the Footprint” and said a poor-quality picture was deliberately released as a public relations move to kill the topic.” of course, to prove what the motives were behind JPL’s release of the shoddy Catbox “enhancement” of the MGS Face image two years ago, it can be proven beyond reasonable doubt that a deliberate fraud was perpetrated once it is understood what extreme and bizarre image “processing” had to be done to produce the Catbox from the raw image. What I think is very likely close to the image-processing procedure that JPL used is described at: but it’s close.

The “enhancement” process involves the use of a high-pass filter, which has long been suspected to be the primary culprit in the creation of the Catbox.

But to get something as truly bad as the Catbox, it was also necessary to apply the Photoshop noise filter and embossing filter. Both of these latter two filters are used for fancy special effects in computer graphics, but are bogus in the extreme for any image purporting to depict a real scene. In summary, it appears likely that JPL used a high-pass filter to remove visual cues to the true height and shape of the object, a noise filter to obscure unwanted features that couldn’t be removed, and an embossing filter to add features that don’t exist, but that make the terrain look rougher and more “natural” than it would in an honest enhancement.

I see very little chance that this is anything other than deliberate fraud. It seems unlikely that even gross incompetence could explain the Catbox.

While a proper enhancement certainly shows no “smoking gun” evidence of artificiality, it does show additional features that resemble what would be expected of a face but that were not seen in the lower-resolution Viking images. Their presence thus fulfills a priori predictions based on the artificiality hypothesis of what the MGS would see at high resolution.

Careful analysis of the MGS image by image-processing specialist Dr. Mark Carlotto has shown that the object has a degree of symmetry that is uncommon for most natural landforms. By any scientific standards, the MGS image demonstrated that further methodical imaging of this landform and its surroundings are warranted. Evidently, JPL released the Catbox as a political obstruction to the progress of scientific investigations into the possibility of artifacts on Mars and it has done so successfully for two years. But this situation may not last forever. It can be hoped that NASA will take corrective actions that will lead to the necessary re-imaging in the remaining months of the MGS mission.

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