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December 1996
Volume 14, Number 12

Little Green Men
Justin Raimondo

The excuses given for big government take many forms. But NASA has surely come up with something unique in world history. They are trying to convince us that there is life on Mars, that we'd better speed our way there to find out more, and that's why they need more of your money.

Richard Zare of Stanford University explains the significance: "what if life is not special to earth but ubiquitous in the universe? We will only be able to answer this question, let alone understand the consequences, if we revive America's flagging interest in supporting scientific research."

By pure coincidence, Zare is a scientist doing research. He is a member of a team of 10 government scientists working on the life-on-Mars project, and he says what we will find could "alter the way we think about human existence and our world." Gee, that sounds like a good reason to spend billions.

Within hours of NASA's announcement of life on Mars--and only days after consultant Richard Morris leaked the news to his prostitute--President Clinton pledged that "the American space program will put its full intellectual power and technological prowess behind the search for future evidence of life on Mars."

So far, the "evidence" of this life is so tenuous as to be practically nonexistent: the presence of certain chemical compounds embedded in a Martian asteroid. But in the 1950s, these same compounds were found in asteroids known to have originated in the early prehistory of the solar system, long before the beginning of life.

As Stanley Miller of the University of California at San Diego said, "You find a lot of these hydrocarbon compounds in diesel exhaust and all kinds of combustion products."

While conceding that their alleged evidence is far from conclusive, NASA claims that its theory is the "most reasonable and simplest explanation of the 4.2-pound potato-shaped meteorite found in Antarctica."

In fact, their theory is far from simple: it presupposes not only a single organism but a whole population of extraterrestrial life forms. Add to this the fact that the same chemical compounds can originate non-biologically, and NASA's life-on-Mars hypothesis amounts to nothing but wild speculation.

The quasi-religious character of the let's-go-to-Mars movement is reflected in the hopped-up rhetoric of the president, who declared that the discovery of extraterrestrial life "will surely be one of the most stunning insights into the universe that science has ever uncovered."

"All of us are skeptical, but thrilled and humbled by this prospect," said a humble Daniel Goldin, NASA administrator. But scientists have long calculated that, given the sheer number of stars with planets, there is a mathematical probability that at least some of them will contain organic life. Even if the NASA scientists are right and primitive bacteria did indeed exist on Mars some 3.5 billion years ago, this is not a good reason to pour billions into an interplanetary search for E.T.

Nonetheless, NASA had already planned to send two spacecrafts to Mars every 25 months well into the 21st century. The Great Discovery, however, will undoubtedly speed up this timetable, and it won't be long before they are running a regular shuttle.

What this means is a flood of government subsidies for the techno-elite, fat government contracts for the politically well-connected, and plenty of reflected glory for politicians of both major parties to bask in: all of it orchestrated by a sleek Hollywood-style public relations campaign, combining New Age flim-flammery with the alluring imagery of an ancient civilization buried beneath the sands of Mars.

Clinton used the occasion of the Martian discovery to announce a "bipartisan space summit," to be convened by the futuristic Al Gore, an event that will launch one of the biggest corporate welfare schemes in American history. This panel will be truly bipartisan: the Republicans, who pose as the great budget-slashers, are even more deeply committed to this scam than the Democrats.

Newt Gingrich is a fanatical space cadet, whose first book was about the necessity of tax-funded space colonies. In his infamous lecture series on American civilization, he praises the marriage of big government and big science. It's "worth the costs." Indeed, big projects are particularly suited to government control, provided they are "focused."

Microbiologist Julian Kane isn't buying it. He says the discovery of micro-fossils on the Martian asteroid is "an incredible assertion" that "demands rigorous investigation of every conceivable possibility, including fraud." He compares the announcements with the infamous Piltdown Hoax of 1912, which involved a fake fossil said to be the so-called Missing Link.

"However," says Kane, "a life-on-Mars hoax (possibly perpetrated by a brilliant chemist with a warped sense of humor) that could pass NASA's top scientists, high-tech equipment, and repeated careful analysis would go down as the ne plus ultra scientific ruse of all time."

The possibility of fraud is made more likely by the astounding fact that this alleged Martian asteroid was discovered more than a decade ago, in 1984. Why did the government keep their discovery under wraps for so long? As the proponents of billions in tax dollars for space research come forward with their hands out, this is the first question that ought to be asked.

In any event, whatever the true nature of the Martian asteroid, NASA propagandists and space cadets in both parties are certainly guilty of one gigantic hoax: the idea that government in space creates anything different than it does on earth: confusion, coercion, boondoggles, and theft, albeit this time on a cosmic scale.

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Justin Raimondo is the author of Reclaiming the American Right

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