NASA ejects commentator from launch for opinions on Mars
WASHINGTON, D.C.–NASA denied a science writer and consultant press credentials for the early December launch of Mars Pathfinder, after it objected to his actions during an earlier launch in November for which he says he had credentials.
Richard Hoagland, who has advanced the theory that intelligent life forms on Mars created geological formations in the shape of a face and other objects, was planning to cover the launch for a nationally syndicated radio show and as part of a documentary.
NASA, which gives out press credentials on a case-by-case basis for individual events, denied them to Hoagland because he was not reporting for a recognized broadcast or print organization, NASA public affairs administrator Laurie Boeder said in a letter to Hoagland. Boeder also mentioned that NASA perceived Hoagland as an advocate rather than a journalist because he gave interviews about his views on Martian geology at the November launch to which he was admitted, and posted a sign advocating his position.
Hoagland said that he only gave interviews after journalists sought him out, and the sign was a backdrop for videotaping. Hoagland said he did not hang the poster in the Kennedy Space Center, but on a phone bank wall at an outdoor site designated for journalists. The poster displayed a satellite photo of Mars that some observers believe shows a human-looking face.
NASA discriminated against Hoagland and violated his First Amendment rights when they denied him press credentials, according to Hoagland.
Hoagland said he believes NASA did not want him there because he brought up the controversial topic of the possibility of life on Mars through his coverage and comments. Hoagland, who founded a journal called The Enterprise Mission, added that it is not Boeder’s or the government’s place to define who is and who is not a journalist. Many journalists give comments and report on events, he said.
Hoagland and his supporters wrote letters to NASA administrator Daniel Goldin, protesting Boeder’s decision to deny Hoagland credentials to the December launch.
NASA public affairs officials declined to comment on Hoagland’s allegations.