photo credit: NASA
Here's their story. Gerry showed the "Face" image -- Frame 35A72 -- to the press in the Von Karman auditorium, chuckled, and added "On the next orbit, it all went away. The feature looked quite different." This was when he called the mesa the oft-quoted "trick of light and shadow." Hoagland & Bara have said more than once that Gerry must have been lying, because by the time the Viking 1 orbiter came over that latitude again, Cydonia would have moved "hundreds of miles" due to the natural rotation of the planet. The orbiter was in a more or less polar orbit.
They're thinking of a typical Earth-satellite situation, where the so-called "walk rate" is typically about 22.5° of longitude. The period of a low reconnaissance-type orbit is ~90 min, and (360° x 1.5)/24 = 22.5. However, the situation at Mars in 1976 was very, very different. The Martian day is 24.622 hours -- very similar to that of Earth. However, the Viking orbiter's orbit was much higher -- 1513 x 33,000 km, and its period was, guess what? 24.66 hours1. Almost the same as the rotation rate of the planet it was spinning around. Now the calculation is (360° x 24.66)/24.622. = 360.55°. In other words, the walk on Viking 1 was only 0.55°. That works out to only 25.3 km on the ground, at the sub-satellite point. The orbital camera could surely have re-photographed "Owen Mesa" with relative ease.
Gerry Soffen. Not a liar.
image credit: NASA
I thought of this again today, listening to Mike Bara parading his ignorance around Internet radio once again, as he plugged his error-filled book on Paracast. He was complaining about the tyranny of what he called 'Googlepedia' -- the google-wikipedia axis that is, according to him, totally dominated by 'NASA Brownshirts' in matters of space technology. As an example he stated that he had more than once added a note about Gerry Soffen's lie to the Face on Mars wikipedia article, only to have his edit wiped out immediately by "NASA."
One of the fine features of the wiki is the ability to reconstruct the entire edit history of any article, and indeed there's evidence of an attempt to insert such material at least once. At 03:57 on 27th July this year, somebody with IP address 220.127.116.11 inserted this text:
"He also added that a second image, taken hours later, shows no sign of the Face at all - to support his claim of the "light and shadow trickery". It was a lie as the mentioned "second image" taken "hours later" never existed - the orbiter was imaging completely different part of the planet at that point."
The edit was reverted at 07:48 by an editor called Dougweller, with the comment "find a reliable source first." Here's Dougweller's personal page -- I see no indication whatsoever that he has any connection with NASA. Here's a list of his edits -- he seems to be interested in the Queen of Sheba, and Edinburgh Academy.
I do a little wiki-editing myself, and I've been known to gnash my teeth somewhat about "citation nazis." The geek-comic xkcd had fun with them, too, a while back.
image credit: xkcd
But really, it isn't that arduous. The point is that anything that would be likely to be challenged by other editors must be accompanied by a citation from a reliable source.
Mike Bara isn't a reliable source. And now for the really bad news -- he revealed on Paracast that he has a contract for his next book, Ancient Aliens on Mars. Oh no, here we go again........
 Viking 1 Orbiter Mission Profile