Fact Check: Did NASA Rover Photograph Alien Lying on Martian Rock?

The question of whether life has ever existed on Mars continues to fascinate both the scientific community and the general public.

Indeed, part of the rationale behind NASA's Perseverance rover mission is to help uncover evidence of past life on the Red Planet by using x-rays to probe Martian rocks for signs of ancient microbial activity.

With man-made rovers roaming the Martian landscapes and state-of-the-art telescopes scouring the planet's surface, there is a now wealth of video and photo material from the Red Planet available to the general public.

As a result, Mars and UFO enthusiasts have been spending countless hours poring over the images and data in search of alien life. From the "Martian face" to a "Sasquatch-shaped rock," many "sightings" have been debunked over the years.

The latest such claim is being shared alongside a panoramic still from Mars, purportedly showing a mysterious "alien" figure.

The Claim

On February 4, Scott Waring of the blog UFO Sightings Daily, which publishes claims of UFO sightings, shared a blog post titled "Alien Figure Watching Mars Rover! 100% Proof of Life! UFO Sighting News."

The post includes a cropped version of a photo of the surface of Mars taken by the Perseverance rover in 2021. Waring claims its shows a Martian rock with a person lying on top of it.

The blog post reads: "There is a person laying down watching the NASA Mars rover from a safe distance away. The person is about 1 foot tall, .3 meters and is laying down, pinkish upper chest, neck and face, radish hair, wearing a dark suit, but has a grey object over one shoulder...looks like a backpack of some sort. There are even footprints behind the person leading up to the location they chose to lay down at."

The blog post has since gained some news media attention and the photo has been shared widely on social media.

The Facts

The cropped photo shared by Waring is part of a panorama taken by the Perseverance rover in April, 2021. Tens of thousands of raw images of the Martian surface have been taken by the rover since it landed there in 2021.

The panorama can be seen here while the individual image apparently showing the alien can be found on the Perseverance rover website here. Below, Newsweek has cropped the photo and added a red circle to show the section of the image that UFO Sightings Daily claims shows an alien.

Alleged alien on Mars
A photo taken by the Perseverance rover on Mars on April 20, 2021. Newsweek has circled the area that UFO Sightings Daily claims shows a person on a rock. NASA has said there is no evidence yet for life as we know it on the planet. NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

The figure on the rock could be interpreted as someone lying down, though the image gets fuzzy and indistinct the closer one zooms in.

However, scientists reiterate that the surface of Mars is completely inhospitable to life as we know it—even for microbial life, let alone for humanoid figures capable of walking.

There are many reasons why this is the case. Mitch Schulte, Mars 2020 program scientist at NASA's headquarters in Washington, D.C., told Newsweek that the main issues for potential life on Mars are the lack of liquid water, as well as high levels of radiation, and generally low temperatures and atmospheric pressure.

There are also only trace amounts of oxygen in Mars' atmosphere. This would pose an issue for multicellular life, as it is understood on Earth, because it uses oxygen as a metabolic energy source.

"While it is conceivable that microscopic forms of life could exist, probably deep in the subsurface in areas where temperatures could be more moderate, the overlying rocks shield the environment from much of the radiation, and liquid water could exist, we have not found any evidence to date of extant life of any form on Mars," Schulte said.

Alana Johnson, senior communications specialist at NASA's Planetary Science Division, told Newsweek: "Space enthusiasts and other image processors are often excited about raw Mars imagery downlinked from NASA spacecraft. Sometimes it is interpreted, used, or altered to create fan-made works shared online."

Neither of the NASA representatives Newsweek spoke to said what the shape on the rock seen in the photo actually is. However, the space agency has collected an extensive list of alleged alien sightings on Mars in an article titled Space Oddities: NASA Sorts Fact From Fantasy and states that unusual shapes on the planet's surface are often the result of wind erosion.

In a response to a request for comment from Newsweek, Waring called himself a "hard core researcher" that seeks "truth about existence of intelligent life."

"We assume that every detail about Mars is 100 percent true, but...has the US government ever lied? Yes, of course they have," he wrote, without offering any specific evidence for the claim.

The Ruling

Fact Check - False

False.

NASA's Perseverance rover did not spot an alien relaxing on a Martian rock. The surface of Mars is completely inhospitable to life as we know it.

FACT CHECK BY NEWSWEEK

NASA's Perseverance rover casts off.
In this illustration made available by NASA, the Perseverance rover casts off its spacecraft's cruise stage, minutes before entering the Martian atmosphere in February 2021. NASA/JPL-Caltech via AP