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Disinformation requires a cause - something worth hiding from a public that might panic or have its values altered. Dr. Brandenberg's discovery may point to reason for a cover up. (Updated 6/8/2015)

A FoxNews.Com story is first repeated word for word below the first picture. My analysis of the assertions is found after the article.  Note: Although we spoke two hours apart in the same room at the 13th International Mars Society Convention in Dayton, Ohio in 2010, we did not have the opportunity to speak with him until after the following article was published by the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in 2011: Evidence for a Large, Paleo-Nuclear reactor on Mars.

Note: Do not confuse Dr. John Brandenburg with John Brandon. They are two separate people.

Ever wonder why the red planet is red? 

About 180 million years ago, a planet-shattering yet naturally occurring nuclear reaction may have wiped out everything on Mars, sending a shockwave that turned the planet into dry sand.

Even more incredible: A natural nuclear reaction could have occurred on our own planet -- and could happen again, said Dr. John Brandenburg, a senior propulsion scientist at Orbital Technologies Corp.

"The Martian surface is covered with a thin layer of radioactive substances including uranium, thorium and radioactive potassium -- and this pattern radiates from a hot spot [on Mars],” Brandenburg told FoxNews.com.

“A nuclear explosion could have sent debris all around the planet," he said. "Maps of gamma rays on Mars show a big red spot that seems like a radiating debris pattern ... on the opposite side of the planet there is another red spot."

According to Brandenburg, the natural explosion, the equivalent of 1 million one-megaton hydrogen bombs, occurred in the northern Mare Acidalium region of Mars where there is a heavy concentration of radioactivity. 

This explosion filled the Martian atmosphere with radio-isotopes as well, which are seen in recent gamma ray spectrometry data taken by NASA, he said. 

The radioactivity also explains why the planet looks red.

Brandenburg said gamma ray spectrometry taken over the past few years shows spiking radiation from Xenon 129 -- an increase also seen on Earth after a nuclear reaction or a nuclear meltdown, including the one at Chernobyl in 1986 and the disaster in Japan earlier this month.

Dr. David Beaty, Mars program science manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told FoxNews.com that he finds the idea intriguing and fascinating. But to prove the science, the agency would need to plan a mission to explore Mare Acidalium on Mars.

And there are more pressing issues, including missions to find extraterrestrial life. “You have to assess the importance of the question relative to the cost of answering the question,” he said.

Still, Beaty expressed doubts, saying the geological conditions on this planet and Mars have existed for millennia -- what exists has existed for a long time, and there are few sudden changes. “Rocks are what they are. [A natural nuclear reaction] could happen in another billion years, but it is not something to make you want to go home to your family and move to the mountains right away,” he said.

Dr. Lars Borg, a scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Lab, called Brandenburg’s conclusions unsurprising -- and part of known geological processes, not a nuclear reaction.

"We've looked at Martian meteorites for 15 years, and looked in detail at the isotopic measurements .. and not a single person out of hundreds worrying about this have thought there could have been a nuclear explosion on Mars," he told FoxNews.com.

Brandenburg -- who once worked at Livermore himself -- defended his research, arguing that defense experts he talked to off the record said they agreed there are signs of a nuclear reaction. 

Besides, there's a precedence for a natural nuclear reaction on our own planet, he noted. 

The Oklo, Gabon, region of Africa has uranium-coated sediments from a nuclear reaction that occurred 2 billion years ago.

A massive nuclear explosion on Mars would have created huge craters on the surface, visible from orbiting telescopes like Hubble and from the Mars rovers. Brandenburg said such craters could have filled in with sand over the past 180 million years, leaving no visual cues to prove the theory.

Another possibility is that the reaction occurred in mid-air and did not leave a crater -- which is exactly what happened at the Tunguska event in Russia in 1909, presumably by a large comet.

Harrison Schmitt, a geological expert and the last man to step out of the Apollo spacecraft on the moon, told FoxNews.com that there is “general validity” to Brandenburg’s theory. He said the nuclear reaction may not have been caused by an explosion, however, and might have occurred over time.

Edward D. McCullough, a science and space consultant, agreed that the Mare Acidalium region of Mars does show some strange colors and terrain formations that seem unexplainable.

“There seems to be a reasonable closure between the number of fissions required to produce the Xenon 129 enhancement and the amount of energy required to toss material to that point on Mars,” he said.

“This massive nuclear explosion on Mars seems to defy natural explanation,” said Brandenburg.

Figure 2 - The map shows key areas of Brandenburg's concern back in 2011. See Figure 5 for his 2014 assertion.

DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS. The closest stories that I have heard  before about explosions on Mars are found on my site at Flares on Mars.

WHAT IS THE AREA OF CONCERN ON MARS? Dr. Brandenburg points to Mare Acidalium. This is in the northeast portion of the western hemipshere of Mars between 300° and 360° East, and between 30° and 65° North. The famous "face" at Cydonia lies within this region at 40.75° North latitude and 350.54 degrees East (9.46° West) longitude. The face at Cydonia is shown on the cover of his newest book. 

Figure 3 - On November 22, 2014 at the American Physical Society Brandenburg argued for two nuclear explosions, consistent with fusion-fission (or fission-fusion) in the areas indicated. His new beliefs are supposedly set to be published in the Journal of Cosmology and Astrophyics.


I last spoke to Dr. Brandenburg around May 2011. At that time he was doing research at Orbital Technologies Corporation in Madison, Wisconsin his previous background from recent back to earlier years is as follows:

  • At Florida Space Institute at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida,
  • The Aerospace Corporation, where one of his duties was as principle investigator of the MET (Microwave Electro-Thermal) propulsion project.
  • Performed an architecture study for a Human Mars Mission using solar electric propulsion.
  • Performed research on Fusion Propulsion and Kaluza-Klein theory of Field Unification for purposes of space propulsion.
  • Was a researcher at Research Support Instruments (RSI) where he specialized in making controlled laboratory plasmas for uses ranging from Fusion research to the MET thruster.
  • Worked as an independent consultant on Space Missile Defense, Directed Energy Weapons, and space rocket plume phenomenology.
  • At Mission Research Corporation and Sandia National Laboratories on plasmas for controlled fusion and similar topics.
  • PhD in Theoretical Plasma Physics at the UC Davis extension campus at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore California. The Title of his Thesis was “A Theoretical Model of a Reversed Field Ion Layer Made of Monoenergetic Ions.” It dealt with the magnetic confinement of plasmas for controlled nuclear fusion.
  • MS in Applied Science at University of California at Davis.
  • BA in Physics from Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Oregon.

Additional data:

  • Author the “Dead Mars, Dying Earth” (1999) with Monica Rix Paxson, which dealt with the problems of energy and global warming from a comparative planetary science (Earth-Mars) perspective and has been published in the USA, Great Britain, Germany and Japan. It was the winner of the Silver Medal in the Ben Franklin awards for books on science and environment.
  • Recently completed writing a science fiction novel “Morningstar Pass” dealing with the problems of initial contact between humanity and extraterrestrial intelligence and the development of the human race into a space-faring civilization.
From reading his first book, DEAD MARS, DYING EARTH, it is obvious that Mars and the Cydonia face have been at the focus of his intense research for three decades now. 

COMMENTARY ABOUT DR. BRANDENBURG'S TWO MARS BOOKS. The thrust of DEAD MARS, DYING EARTH is decidedly environmental. On pages 39-40 the author details concerns that the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) deliberately altered the initial blue sky color (with greenish patches on rocks) seen by Viking 1 to a butterscotch sky color with rusty red rocks seen since then. Further, on page 41 he indicates that a few hours after the Cydonia face image was taken at local sunset in Cydonia, JPL lied to the public by indicating that a second image of the area, taken when it had to be dark at Cydonia, had shown the face had disappeared. JPL, he alleges, said the earlier image was obviously a trick of light and shadow. The immediate significance of this charge here is that, if serious, it would seem to conform with my findings that the pressure in Mars is a good bit higher than NASA argues. 

      A true sense of the direction taken by DEAD MARS, DYING EARTH can be gained from its summary of what its author calls THE GARDEN EARTH ENTERPRISE in Chapter 12.  He makes nine key points with the first eight making sense, but the last one seemed a bit dated (the Peace Corps is now 50 years old).


1. Develop fusion power,

2. Develop practical electric cars and reinvigorate electric railroads worldwide (This is being done in Israel).

3. Pay rainforest nations for their oxygen production.

4. Develop solar energy (This is also being done in Israel).

5. Fund a vigorous space program to help prevent another Tunguska asteroid impact and to mine helium-3 to permit radiation-free fusion on Earth.

6. Ratify the Kyoto Protocol and quit complaining about it.

7. Move closer to nature and practice a lifestyle less dependent on oil and electricity.

8. Triage environmental problems.

9. Quadruple the size of the Peace Corps and expand its mission.


     His first book often discusses the issue of "carbon sinks" (places that absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide). It alerts us that the rain forests are rapidly declining carbon sinks, and it points out that where they are being burnt they are now putting more CO2 into the air than they are removing. It also makes clear the possibility that the oceans may disgorge carbon dioxide in a manner similar to Lake Nyos in Cameron which in 1984 killed 1,700 people and 19,000 animals.  He links the steady rise in CO2  to a persistent Oxygen Inventory Depletion (OID). 

       His second work, LIFE AND DEATH ON MARS, was a quick update of the true nature of Mars. Editing problems were somewhat of a distraction; however while reading it was more like reading the professor’s notes than reading a book, the “good stuff” (which starts with Mariner 9 on page 81) does a great job in taking us from the dismal lunar-like portrait painted by Mariner 4 to a world that is much more Earth-like.

     THE DEATH OF MARS. Brandenburg argues about why our government was hesitant to start a spiritual crisis for humanity, or to risk a panic similar to that caused by the radio broadcast of War of the Worlds in 1938. But before driving home the evidence for the nuclear incident on Mars, he first tells us about a horrendous asteroid impact that occurred where we now find the Lyot crater at 50N, 330W, north of Arabia Terra and east of Mare Acidalium. That crater (200 km wide) is bigger than the Chicxulub basin on Earth - the impact site that resulted in extinction of the dinosaurs. Then he takes us through the second and largely fatal punch to Mars with a detailed explanation of why the argon 40 isotope found in abundance in the Martian atmosphere and the xenon 129 were problems – they are typical of what forms after a nuclear explosion. Initially we read about a natural nuclear reaction that once took place at a site named Okla in Gabon, Africa. But there were important differences detected between the African and Martian events.

       The Martian meteorites hold little uranium or thorium. Yet Russian Martian probes (not landers) detected both on Mars in amounts similar to what is seen on Earth.  Brandenburg asserts that this means these elements lie in a thin layer on the surface rather than in rocks below it. He indicates that radioactive potassium was also hyperactive on the Martian surface in a pattern that matched the thorium. This he believes means that some process had spread the thorium and uranium dust all over the planet, and this process also irradiated the potassium with neutrons in the same pattern. The major hot spot appeared to be burned as we would expect to see had there been a nuclear "airburst" over the site. On the opposite side of the planet (at the antipode) there was another radioactive hot spot that looked like the two halves of the shock wave had travelled around the planet to meet there. The similarities to an airburst mean that this explosion was probably not natural  (Note: it appears that by 2014 he had revised his idea about an antipode to a second nuclear explosion - see Figure 3).  That implies that we have more to worry about than those lichen-like green patches on Martian rocks seen by the Vikings before someone adjusted the color values for public consumption (in reference to the green patches see our article about Dr. Gilbert Levin). It means that long before our current civilization arose on Earth, there was a nasty intelligence at foot in our solar system who did not hesitate to nuke Mars into near oblivion. 

DATING THE INCIDENTS. The initial article quoted above states, "About 180 million years ago, a planet-shattering yet naturally occurring nuclear reaction may have wiped out everything on Mars, sending a shockwave that turned the planet into dry sand."  However, as Dr. Brandenburg makes clear in both his books about Mars, dating events on Mars can be difficult and is, in general, closely linked to cratering rates. As such, the recent findings about new craters seen on Mars is of interest.  If cratering rates are much higher than the 4X lunar rate, then the event age of  180 million year may be too young. See the article by Dr. Shane Byrne to understand just how a process that cratering on Mars is today. However, in speaking with Dr. Brandenburg, he made clear that he has more confidence in dating techniques that utilize radioisotopes. He believes that the face-like object at Cydonia is at least 180,000,000 years old too. He thinks this means that if intelligent life survived on Mars, it had to do so below the surface of the planet. I suggested that the caves in the Arsia Mons volcano might work, and he agreed.  See Section 3 of my Report on Mars to learn more about the caves there. A picture of one of the caves is shown below.



Figure 5 - Were our ancestors from Mars? MER Opportunity photographed rocks shown here that resemble faces, but given how many rocks are on Mars, some will eventually look like faces just by chance.,