The Mars Mystery: The Secret Connection between Earth and the Red Planet

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An asteroid transformed Mars from a lush planet with rivers and oceans into a bleak and icy hell. Is Earth condemned to the same fate, or can we protect ourselves and our planet from extinction?

In his most riveting and revealing book yet, Graham Hancock examines the evidence that the barren Red Planet was once home to a lush environment of flowing rivers, lakes, and oceans....
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The Mars Mystery: The Secret Connection Between Earth and the Red Planet

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An asteroid transformed Mars from a lush planet with rivers and oceans into a bleak and icy hell. Is Earth condemned to the same fate, or can we protect ourselves and our planet from extinction?

In his most riveting and revealing book yet, Graham Hancock examines the evidence that the barren Red Planet was once home to a lush environment of flowing rivers, lakes, and oceans. Could Mars have sustained life and civilization?

Megaliths found on the parched shores of Cydonia, a former Martian ocean, mirror the geometrical conventions of the pyramids at Egypt's Giza necropolis. Especially startling is a Sphinx-like structure depicting a face with distinguishable diadem, teeth, mouth and an Egyptian-style headdress. Might there be a connection between the structures of Egypt and those of Mars? Why does NASA continue to dismiss these remarkable anomalies as "a trick of light"? Hancock points to the intriguing possibility that ancient Martian civilization is communicating with us through the remarkable structures it left behind.

In exploring the possible traces left by the Martian civilization and the cosmic cataclysm that may have ended it, The Mars Mystery is both an illumination of our ancient past and a warning—that we still have time to heed—about our ultimate fate.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Hancock revels in presenting his readers with a vast wealth of information. He builds his case fact by fact,
find by find, until one is overwhelmed by the evidence that draws to an inevitable conclusion."
—Journal Star
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780609600863
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/9/1998
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 344
  • Product dimensions: 6.33 (w) x 9.37 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Graham Hancock has traveled around the world writing books and filming movies on archaeological discoveries and their connection to our distant past. He is the author of the best-selling Fingerprints of the Gods and The Sign and the Seal.

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Read an Excerpt

The Murdered Planet

Parallel World

Although separated by tens of millions of miles of empty space, Mars and Earth participate in a mysterious communion.

Repeated exchanges of materials have taken place between the two planets, the most recent involving spacecraft from Earth that have landed on Mars. Likewise we now know that chunks of rock thrown off from the surface of Mars periodically crash into Earth. By 1997 a dozen meteorites had been firmly identified as having originated on Mars. They are known technically as SNC meteorites (after Shergotty, Nakhla, and Chassingy, the names given to the first three such meteorites found) and researchers around the world are on the lookout for more.
According to calculations by Dr. Colin Pillinger of the U.K. Planetary Sciences Research Institute, 100 tons of Martian material arrives on Earth each year.

One of the Mars meteorites, ALH84001, was found in Antarctica in 1984. It contains tiny tubular structures that NASA scientists sensationally identified in August 1996 as possible microscopic fossils of bacteria-like organisms that may have lived on Mars more than 3.6 billion years ago.

In October 1996 scientists at Britains Open University announced that a second Martian meteorite, EETA 79001, had also been found to contain the chemical signatures of life—in this case, astonishingly, organisms that could have existed on Mars as recently as 600,000 years ago.


Two probes were launched by NASA in 1996 Pathfinder, a lander-rover, and Mars Global Surveyor, an orbiter. Further missions are budgeted to follow through 2005, when an attempt will be made toscoop up a chunk of the surface rock or soil of Mars and then return the sample to Earth. Russia and Japan are also sending probes to Mars to undertake a range of scientific tests and experiments.

Longer term are plans to terraform the Red Planet. This would involve the introduction of greenhouse gases and simple bacteria from Earth. Over a period of centuries the warming effects of the gases and the metabolic processes of the bacteria would transform the Martian atmosphere, making it habitable by more and more complex species, either introduced or locally evolved.

How likely is it that humanity will be able to fulfill this plan to seed Mars with life?
Apparently it is only a matter of finding the money. The technology to do the job already exists. Ironically, however, the existence of life on Earth itself remains one of the great unsolved mysteries of science. Nobody knows when, why, or how it began here. It just seems to have exploded suddenly, out of nowhere, at a very early stage in the planets history. Although Earth is thought to have formed 4.5 billion years ago, the most ancient surviving rocks are younger than that about 4 billion years old. Traces of microscopic organisms have been found going back almost 3.9 billion years.

The transformation of inanimate matter into life is a miracle that has never repeated itself, one that even the most advanced scientific laboratories cannot replicate. Are we really to believe that such an amazing piece of cosmic alchemy could have occurred by chance in just the first few hundred million years of Earth's long existence?

Professor Fred Hoyle of Cambridge University does not think so. His explanation for the origin of life on Earth so soon after the formation of the planet is that it was imported from outside the solar system on great interstellar comets. Some fragments collided with Earth, releasing spores that had been held in suspended animation in the cometary ice. The spores spread out and took root all around the newly formed planet, which was soon densely colonized by hardy microorganisms. These slowly evolved and diversified, eventually producing the immense range of life-forms that we know today.

An alternative and more radical theory, supported by a number of scientists, is that Earth could have been deliberately terraformed 3.9 billion years ago, just as we are now preparing to terraform Mars. This theory presupposes the existence of an advanced star-faring civilization or more likely, many such civilizations distributed throughout the universe.

Most scientists do not see the need for comets or aliens. Their theory, the mainstream view, is that life arose on Earth accidentally, without any outside interference. They further argue, on the basis of widely agreed calculations about the size and composition of the universe, that there are probably hundreds of millions of Earth-like planets spread randomly across billions of light years of interstellar space. They point out that it is improbable, amid such legions of suitable planets, that life would have evolved only on Earth.


In our own solar system, the first planet out from the Sun, tiny, seething Mercury, is believed to be incongenial to any imaginable form of life. So too is Venus, the second planet from the Sun, where concentrated sulphuric acid pours down twenty-four hours a day from poisonous clouds. Earth is the third planet from the Sun. The fourth, Mars, is indisputably the most Earth-like in the solar system. Its axis is tilted at an angle of 24.935 degrees in relation to the plane of its orbit around the Sun (Earths axis is tilted 23.5 degrees). It makes a complete rotation around its axis in 24 hours, 39 minutes, 36 seconds (Earth's rotational period is 23 hours, 56 minutes, 5 seconds). Like Earth, Mars is subject to the cyclic axial wobble that astronomers call precession. Like Earth it is not a perfect sphere but somewhat flattened at the poles and expanded into a bulge at the equator. Like Earth it has four seasons. Like Earth it has icy polar caps, mountains, deserts, and dust storms. And although Mars today is a freezing hell, there is evidence that in some ancient period it was alive with oceans and rivers and enjoyed a climate and atmosphere quite similar to those of Earth.

How probable is it that the spark that ignited life on Earth would not also have made its mark on neighboring, similar Mars? Whether Earth was deliberately terraformed, in other words, or whether it was seeded with the spores of life from crashed cometsor whether, indeed, life arose here spontaneously and accidentallyit is reasonable to hope that we might find traces of the same kind of process on Mars.

If such traces are not forthcoming, then the chances that we are alone in the universe increase and the chances of life being discovered anywhere else are dramatically reduced. The implication will be that Earth's life-forms emerged under conditions so focused, specialized, and unique and at the same time so random that they could not be replicated even on a nearby world belonging to the same solar family. How much less likely, therefore, that they could be replicated on alien worlds in orbit around distant stars.

For this reason the question of life on Mars must be regarded as one of the great philosophical mysteries of our time. With the rapid advances in exploration of the planet it is a mystery that is soon likely to be solved.


The evidence in from Mars so far takes four principal forms:
        1.        Earth-based observations from telescopes
        2.        Observations and photographs from orbiting spacecraft
        3.        Chemical and radiological tests carried out on Martian soil samples by NASA landers, with the results being transmitted back to Earth for analysis
        4.        Microscopic examination of meteorites known to have come from Mars
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Earth-based telescopes produced the first ever life on Mars sensation—the claim that the planet was checkered with a gigantic network of irrigation canals bringing water from the poles to the parched equatorial regions. This claim, which we shall discuss further in part 2 of this book, was put forward by Percival Lowell, a prominent U.S. astronomer, and made an indelible mark on the collective psyche of Americans. Most scientists ridiculed Lowell's ideas, however, and in the 1970s, NASA's Mariner 9 and Viking 1 and 2 probes orbited the planet and sent back definitive photographs proving that there were no canals.

It is now recognized that Lowell (and others who claimed to have seen the canals) were the victims of poor-quality telescopic images and an optical illusion that causes the brain to link disparate, unconnected features into straight lines. Even today, no Earth-based telescope has sufficient resolution to allow us to solve the mystery of life on Mars. We must therefore make our deductions using the three other types of evidence available to us: Martian meteorites, orbiter observations, lander observations.

We have already seen that two of the Martian meteorites appear to contain traces of primitive microorganisms (although many scientists disagree with this interpretation). Less well known is the fact that a number of the tests carried out in 1976 by the Viking landers also proved positive for life.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Interviews & Essays

On Tuesday, June 30th, welcomed Graham Hancock to discuss THE MARS MYSTERY.

Moderator: Welcome, Graham Hancock! Thank you for taking the time to join us online this evening. How are you doing tonight?

Graham Hancock: I am fine, thank you. I spent the last two weeks traveling around America, talking to people about the new book and have been enjoying it. from XX: Hello, Graham. Why did you decide to tackle this subject with your new book?

Graham Hancock: I decided to investigate the subject of Mars because I believe the question of life on Mars is one of the great scientific mysteries of our time and because an exploration of Mars is currently underway by NASA. I want to show that the planet has many amazing characteristics and that we should approach it with an open mind, not with preconceived theories. We should allow it to amaze us.

Mike from Sudbury, MA: What did the NASA Mars missions really uncover? Any new important info? Does your book cover this?

Graham Hancock: Yes, the book covers the latest NASA information on Mars. First and foremost, the new Orbitor photos settle one very important issue. This is that there was at one time an enormous quantity of water on Mars. There were oceans, lakes, and rivers that ran for hundreds of millions of years. So it was once the kind of planet that could have sustained life. Secondly, this year in April NASA rephotographed the region of Mars called Cydonia, where there are many strange structures that have been claimed by some to be artificial monuments. NASA says they are just tricks of light and shadow, and weird geology. But I think the new photos, which I examine in the book, raise more questions than they answer. Many structures, not visible in the previous 1976 photos, show up in the new images. I think the case for artificiality at Cydonia is even stronger now and urgently requires further investigation. The matter is not settled. NASA could be right. But they also could be very wrong. Much more science needs to be done before any kind of final conclusion is reached. But it is intriguing and definitely worth a detailed investigation by NASA.

Niki from Do you think something like the scenario in the two asteroid movies is a realistic possibility?

Graham Hancock: Yes, I have seen "Deep Impact" but not yet "Armageddon," which releases on July 1st. "Deep Impact" was based on very good science. The advisor to the film was Eugene Shoemaker, the codiscoverer of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 -- the comet that hit Jupiter in 1994. Tragically, he died in a car crash recently, but he was one of the greatest specialists in the study of comets. The scenario of a comet impact with the Earth is all too real. I have been investigating these matters in great detail in THE MARS MYSTERY because it is clear that Mars was destroyed as a functioning ecosystem by a gigantic cosmic collision. The scenario I present for Mars is of a fragmenting giant comet, perhaps 200 or 300 miles in diameter, exploding close to the planet. There is evidence that such a comet did blow up inside our solar system about 20,000 years ago. The Earth itself passes through the debris of this comet twice a year. It is called the Torrid Meteor Stream, and it has been linked to a series of impacts on the Earth and on the moon over the last few thousand years. Calculations suggest that some very large objects, perhaps as much as 20 miles wide, may be orbiting in the core of the Torrid Meteor Stream. This is obviously a desperately serious problem that needs urgent attention. I am pleased to say that NASA has recently greatly increased its budget for surveys of Earth crossing paths with asteroids and comets -- up from $1 million to $100 million a year over the next ten years. This at least is a start and shows how seriously the danger is now being taken.

Mike from Ft. Collins, CO: Graham, I am a 17-year-old, and I love your books! What were you like as a kid?

Graham Hancock: Thanks for the nice comments about my books. Glad you like them. I was an only child -- no brother or sister. I was born in Scotland but grew up in Southern India. I used to be pretty inquisitive and was always getting into trouble. I guess nothing much has changed.

Krista from How was it writing THE SIGN AND THE SEAL? Did you have any Indiana Jones-like experiences?

Graham Hancock: For me, THE SIGN AND THE SEAL was a great adventure from beginning to end. These were both intellectual adventures and real physical adventures as well. I write about some of these in the book. It was very important for me to complete my quest and take the investigation as far as it could go. This meant some dangerous travel across the Sudan and into Northern Ethiopia during the civil war in Ethiopia in 1991. There was lots of adventure along the way, and it was a great experience. But I don't think of myself as Indiana Jones. Trouble is, when you go looking for the Ark everybody automatically makes the Indiana Jones connection. Actually, I am not complaining.

Nelson from Connecticut: What can we do? Is this a situation where we as individuals can't really do anything to prevent such a destruction here on Earth?

Graham Hancock: We can do a lot. The most important thing is that NASA and other space-oriented agencies around the world must start paying more attention to the dangers posed to our planet by asteroids and comets. Collision with such objects have brought life on Earth close to total extinction on several occasions in the past, but we today do have the technology to do something about this terrifying problem if we want to. It would be right at the edge of what science can achieve, and it would require international cooperation of a type we haven't managed to create yet. But it would be possible. And there is hope. And the first steps have to be taken now.

Paul from Morris Plains, NJ: Do you think there is really information that NASA is not releasing to the general public? What specifically is that info? Does your new book cover this?

Graham Hancock: I think it is possible that NASA is not telling us everything it knows. But the definition of a successful cover-up is that the info is covered up and therefore nobody knows what it is -- otherwise it wouldn't be a successful cover-up. NASA's behavior over the issue of the monuments on Mars has been really peculiar since the matter first came up with the Viking Orbiter photos in 1976. Even if it is not a conspiracy, it certainly looks like a conspiracy. One possibility I look into in the book is that it is mainly a mind-set of the past by NASA. By this I mean an absolute conviction shared by NASA scientists that there never could have been any intelligent life on Mars. Since this is their theory and they hold it very strongly, they have been unavailable to react imaginatively to contrary evidence such as the photographs. So at the very least I believe NASA is guilty of a closed-minded approach, bad science, and a lack of imagination. The suggestion that there are artificial monuments on Mars is a testable hypothesis. There is a grounding of truth here. Either these things are artificial or they are natural. NASA hasn't yet done enough science to settle the matter one way or the other, so it is slightly irresponsible for NASA scientists just to insist that these are natural structures. They really don't know enough to say that.

Tracy C. from Raleigh, NC: Curious to know if you find a different audience in England compared to here in the U.S.? Do you find Americans are more open-minded and less cynical and more likely to believe the subjects you write about?

Graham Hancock: I certainly do observe a difference as regards the present book, THE MARS MYSTERY. The difference is mainly that there is a much higher level of awareness about Mars in the United States. This matter has received very little attention in Britain. Otherwise, I would say that people around the world are pretty much the same in their level of curiosity and willingness to explore mysteries.

Ian from La Jolla, CA: Do you think there was any connection or communication between the ancient Egypt that you cover so well in FINGERPRINTS and the "civilizations on Mars"?

Graham Hancock: This is one of the reasons I got into the subject of Mars in the first place. If the monuments on Mars are artificial, then how likely is it to be a coincidence that we have similar monuments -- I mean pyramids -- on Earth? Certainly, there is a lot of curious mythology in ancient Egypt and other ancient civilizations relating to the subject of Mars. Curiously, the name Horakathi, meaning "horus of the horizon," which was the name of the Sphynx, is also the name that the ancient Egyptians gave to the planet Mars.

Mike from What type of research did you do for this book?

Graham Hancock: As is the case with all my books, I attempted to research the subject of Mars extremely thoroughly. This involved interviews and discussions with scientists all around the world and a very detailed and painstaking review of all the existing scientific literature both on Mars and on asteroids and comet impacts.

Montey from New York City: How long did it take you to write this book? What are you working on next?

Graham Hancock: It took two years to write. What is coming up next is a new book called HEAVEN'S MIRROR, with the subtitle "Quest for the Lost Civilization." This book has a 100,000-word text by me, plus more than 300 full-color photos by my wife, Santha. It is also linked to a TV series that I will present on the Learning Channel, called "Quest for the Lost Civilization." The series airs for two hours on the night of August 16th and one hour on August 17th. And the book should be published at around the same time. The mystery that we investigate is of astronomically aligned monuments all around the world that reflect the pattern of constellations on the ground. There are mysterious connections between such widely separated sites as Ankgor in Cambodia, Egypt, Easter Island, and an underwater structure off of Japan. I believe that all were linked to a worldwide system of spiritual teaching that pursued the immortality of the soul through knowledge. I argue that this system is the legacy of a lost civilization.

Moderator: Thank you, Graham Hancock! Do you have any closing comments for the online audience?

Graham Hancock: Yes, let's make sure that the continuing exploration of Mars is conducted with an open mind, no preconceived theories, and a willingness to be amazed.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 13, 2007

    A reviewer

    This book shows some compelling scientific evidence about why Mars looks the way it does and some anomalies that Mars gives us. Such mysteries are so thrilling and enjoyable to read!

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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