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Imagine what would be, if history had occurred a bit differently. Who says it didn't, somewhere? These fictional news items explore that possibility. Written by Alternate Historian

July 16

In 1997, the following story was released by the Associated Press: City Found on Mars

City Found on Mars
written by Eric Lipps
WASHINGTON - Stunning proof of the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence was released today by NASA. According to NASA chief Dan Goldin, the Viking II probe dispatched to Mars in May 1996 has sent back unmistakable evidence that the Red Planet was once inhabited.

Exclusive photographs obtained by the Conspirer clearly show the ruins of a massive city. NASA sources insist there is no possibility that these formations are of natural origin. In addition, the Conspirer has learned that the Martian ruins show evidence of radioactivity well above the "background" level for the portion of the Martian surface where they were found. Experts speculate that this may mean the city was destroyed by nuclear weapons.

Dr. Goldin told this reporter that he has urged President Clinton to ask Congress for an immediate increase in NASA's budget to pay for a program of manned Mars exploration. He indicated that he had advised the President to press for long-term funding aimed at establishing a permanent human presence on Mars to study the ruins and look for other evidence of alien visitors. "When we went to the moon," he said, "we made a mistake: once we got there, we just turned around and left. It's as if Columbus had landed in the New World, poked around a little, and gone home - and nobody had ever come back. We need to do better with Mars, especially since we've found proof of extraterrestrial intelligence there".

Dr. Goldin was asked whether he believed there were any living Martians. He responded that he believed there had probably never been any true "Martians" - the aliens who built the city, he said, were almost certainly space travelers from some other world. Asked where such travelers might have come from, the NASA administrator said he had "no way of knowing at this time," but believed they most probably came from some planet in another solar system. "Other than Earth," he noted, "there is no place in our solar system known to be capable of naturally sustaining life".

Questioned as to whether the creatures who built the Martian city might be responsible for such things as UFO sightings in modern times, a visibly-irritated Dr. Goldin flatly denied the possibility. "There has never been the slightest evidence that UFOs, or flying saucers, or whatever you want to call them, are extraterrestrial spacecraft," he stated. "And even if there had been, there would in all probability be no connection with the Martian relics". Dr. Goldin noted that preliminary indications are that the city had been constructed at least half a million years ago, and may have been abandoned for hundreds of thousands of years. When asked by this reporter what might be found in the city, Dr. Goldin said that the most likely discoveries had to do with the aliens themselves: what they looked like, what their biology was like, and - if enough artifacts remained intact - something of what their civilization was like. He cautioned, however, that any major findings would most likely take years, even after people arrived on Mars to search first hand, one reason he had asked the President to press for establishment of a permanent Mars base.

The "Mars Underground" Speaks

Dr. Robert Zubrin, noted physicist and vigorous advocate of Martian exploration, held a press conference following NASA's announcement to call for an immediate effort to send humans to Mars as soon as possible.

Dr. Zubrin is a long-time member of the so-called "Mars Underground" - an informal alliance of scientists who lobby for intensive Mars exploration. He is best noted for having proposed an innovative "live off the land" approach to a manned Mars mission which, he says, would make a manned mission possible within ten years at a cost of $10-$20 billion overall. (By contrast, NASA estimates run upwards from $180 billion.) Dr. Zubrin relies on use of advanced technologies to manufacture fuel and oxygen for the return voyage on Mars itself, rather than carrying them from Earth (which greatly increases the weight of the spacecraft and therefore the total fuel required).

© Today in Alternate History, 2013-. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.