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We thought NASA was going to announce they found life on Mars, but it was all a hoax

A friend on Facebook recently posted a link to a website and declared himself so excited he is almost wetting his pants. I was intrigued, especially since this friend rarely gets this excited. What follows is my investigation into the website he linked me to.

Clicking through to gives me the headline

“The Biggest Discovery That will shake the earth, It will never be the same again”

I’m still intrigued, more so by the big NASA badge in the corner, which immediately gives the page an air of authenticity. There’s a timer running down, declaring a day and a few hours left until the secret is revealed. The page is well done in terms of web design. There’s a cool javascript effect moving stars in the background when the mouse pointer moves left and right. The rocket ship illustration is pretty neat too.

The text on the page reads:

“NASA has made a historic discovery that will shake the entire planet. This announcement will be released to the media on November 13th, 2013. It will be a day to remember and One for the history books. Spread the word to your family & friends and sign up to stay updated!”

The page also informs us that an announcement was to be made on November 13th (hence the domain name) but “changes in plan” have meant that the announcement can now be made much sooner – on the 6th of October!

All of the signs point to discovery of water, alien life or evidence of a history of either on Mars:

  • The social media links are for NASA and the Mars Curiosity pages.
  • There’s a spaceship blasting off from Earth, could it be heading to Mars? That’s all it could be, right?
  • The spaceman in the bottom right corner asking “are they real?”.

As the gravity of this potentiality kicked in, my stomach was immediately invaded by a butterfly army and I started shaking. Could alien life on Mars really be found in my lifetime? I started to sing Bowie.

Then the skeptic in me took over. Why weren’t the media talking about this page? Surely NASA can’t announce anything right now, what with the government in shutdown? Looking at the source of the webpage shows us nothing from NASA or from the government but I’ve not really looked at the HTML for too many government websites so maybe none of them do? Maybe they’ve put this up because they can’t update their own website?

Digging a little deeper I stick the domain name into, a search engine designed to tell us technical details like who owns the domain, which servers the domain points to and some other things. This tells me that the domain is registered to ENOM, inc. and was only registered on 1 October 2013 for a year. Information on the domain registrar, the people to whom the domain is registered is hidden behind a shell company with a Panamanian PO box as their registered address. This looks too much like a hoax. End of investigation.

My theory: this is a marketing ploy for someone who is brazen enough to use the NASA logo while they are in no position to refuse rights or to refute any claims this website is making on their behalf. However, the possibility exists that this done by NASA employees trying to get round the government shut down and still announce news. Either way, I’m still intrigued to find out what this announcement could be.

Let us know what you think.

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