Image Of Truck In Recently Released Mars Rover Photos Embarases NASA And Energizes Conspiracy Buffs
By TRAVIS MOORE
Published: May 24, 2012
CAPE CANAVERAL, TX – A scandal has tarnished the Mars rover project, one of the few bright spots in recent years for the NASA space agency.
The controversy began after approximately 300 images were released to the public last week. An amateur astronomer and hobbyist follower of the rover project, Andrew Lefkowitz, 11, of Bethesda, Maryland noticed a strange object in the background. Using his computer, Lefkowitz magnified the object and found a most extraordinary thing – a 1920s Ford Model “A” pickup truck.
Astronomy experts at three universities have confirmed the finding. The object has caused speculation that the rover project is a merely a ploy to keep NASA funding from drying up completely after the shuttering of the shuttle program. It also has breathed new life into the conspiracy theories surrounding the validity of NASA’s lunar landings over 40 years ago.
The space agency was quick to respond. “Obviously, some images from our test runs with the rover in the southwestern Arizona desert were inadvertently mixed in with the latest release of Mars images,” said NASA spokesperson, Tammy Barrett. “We regret the error, and the individual who mixed in the image with genuine image transmissions from Mars will be disciplined.”
“[I]mages from our test runs with the rover… were inadvertently mixed in with the latest release of Mars images.” – Tammy Barrett, NASA Spokesperson
Although most experts attribute the photo to either a misstep or to a NASA prank artist, respected scientists are starting to question the validity of the rover project. Iowa State astrophysics professor Isaac Newcomb said that he is surprised, but not shocked, that the rover program is in question. “In the astrophysics community, we were skeptical at how NASA landed the rover,” he said. “They used a balloon enclosure apparatus that just looked too delicate to withstand the Mars atmosphere.” Famed lunar landing conspiracy theorist Bart Sibrol sounded emboldened. “They finally turned the camera in the wrong direction,” he said. “Better yet, a young amateur without any fancy degrees caught them.”
The rover project began in 2003 with the launch of two rovers to explore the Martian surface and geology. The mission’s scientific objective was to search for and characterize a wide range of rocks and soils that hold clues to past water activity on Mars.