"Despite suggestions in various news tabloids, project scientists were quick to dispell any suggestion that the branched structure seen northeast of the dam-like structure is a marina."
NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION FAUX PHOTO CAPTION
Hydroelectric Dams on Mars
February 6, 1998
This picture of a canyon on the Martian surface was obtained a few minutes after 9 PM EST, January 12, 1998 by the Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC), during the 85th orbit around Mars of the Mars Global Observer spacecraft. It shows the canyon of Dolls Vallis, one of the Martian valley systems cutting through cratered plains in the Yogi Berra region of Mars. The picture covers an area 9.8 km by 18.5 km (6.1 mi by 11.5 mi), and features as small as 12 m (39 ft) can be seen. The canyon is about 2.5 km (1.6 mi) wide. Rocky outcrops are found along the upper canyon walls; weathered debris is found on the lower canyon slopes and along the canyon floor.
While the exact origin of this canyon is still unknown, some features hint at the possibility that there was abundant water present on the surface during recent Martian history (at least as recent as last month when this photo was taken). Some scientists have suggested that the smooth, highly reflective surface seen within the upper reaches of the canyon could be indicative of a large body of standing water. This is supported by the fact that a large number of erosional features on the walls and surrounding plains have been interpreted as being the product of water-based erosional processes. Mission scientists are cautious, however, in assuming that this is an image of a Martian lake, noting that all of these images are preliminary data and could be due to a myriad of other natural phenomena. Indeed, according to the Project's Chief Scientist, similar large flat areas on the Moon were named after seas and oceans by early astronomers only to be found by later researchers to be dry dusty plains.
Another possible hint at water on Mars is the large semicircular structure which is situated within the canyon itself, one which resembles a dam. A number of scientists have suggested that this structure was formed as debris washed down the canyon during a series of catastrophic floods during periods when Mars climate was far more temperate. Although the structure does exhibit a rather geometric, constructed shape, scientists are reluctant to suggest that this structure is in any way artificial. Large structures such as dams would require a large work force and a substantial budget to complete. So far there is no evidence of any governmental organization or construction industry on Mars. Citing noted astronomer Percival Lowell's drawings of Mars, project scientists have noted that this is not the first time that human observers have looked at the surface of Mars and thought that they saw evidence of water management systems.
Despite suggestions in various news tabloids, project scientists were quick to dispell any suggestion that the branched structure seen northeast of the dam-like structure is a marina. In making this statement, project scientists point out that there is very little air on Mars and that sailboats would be impractical nor is there enough Oxygen to support the internal or external combustion engines used in powerboats.
NASA scientists will continue to analyze this image but urge caution in the interpretation of these preliminary pictures. Only when NASA's sample return missions have landed and returned their cargo to Earth for analysis will NASA be able to make a formal announcement regarding the nature of these features.