Mars photo creates a stir

January 23, 2008 6:36:58 PM PST
A picture snapped four years ago by one of NASA's Mars rovers has a lot of Houstonians and other earthlings talking since it recently came to light.It's what's not in the picture that has people talking about what they'd like to see. The possibility of life on Mars, or simply life outside of planet Earth, has launched an entire science fiction industry. The image is seen as a spark to ignite future explorers and scientists.

The photographs are exhilarating. The image is clear -- the formation shows dark against the redness of mars. It's an image that looks like a man sitting on a rock.

Rob Tutt said, "I think it's a man praying, but maybe not. It could be just a rock."

A woman said, "It's very similar to a human figure, and isn't that exciting?"

The images were taken in 2004 by the Mars unmanned explorer named Spirit. The pictures were released last year and this close-up began recently circulating on the Internet. Experts say it does look like a man, but don't get your hopes up.

Dr. Carolyn Sumner with the Houston Museum of Natural Science said, "We would love to have one strand of DNA that wasn't made on Earth because then we understand so much more about life itself. And we just don't have any, so scientists are desperate because it would be wonderful to analyze life that wasn't from Earth."

Dr. Sumner says the image is much smaller than it appears in the enhanced image. But it's the reaction caused by the image that is brighter than any star.

"I think it says we want live on Mars awfully much," she said. "I'm not sure this says the life is really there."

Whether rock or man, the image is enough to ignite an interest in science in younger life forms.

Allison Ojeman, 13, said, "It would be just cool if I could actually go to the planet and see if that creature is real life person."

"I would want to go there and see if I could see for myself," said Briana Parry, 12.

As for what you think about the image, you can get a glimpse of the red planet yourself. Scientists say mars will be visible tonight.