Conspiracy theories have plagued mankind throughout history. Places and names like Area 51, or Roswell, or the Aurora project. Supposed schemes led by the government for any number of reasons- world domination, UFOs, and so on. Some of these theories have been proven false, but new ones appear to replace the old. One such conspiracy of the modern age is the so-called "Eros Project".
This conspiracy has its roots in fairly recent history- the Eve Wars of AC 195 and 196. In the later half of 195, Milliardo Peacecraft (sometimes associated with the late OZ pilot Zechs Merquise. Concrete information concerning the connection between Milliardo and the 'Lightning Count' has not been found.) became the leader of the extremist pro-colony force known as the White Fang. He waged a violent, if short-lived, war against the Earth, a war that came to a gruesome conclusion in the final days of 195. In that time, he fired the space battleship Libra's powerful main cannon at the Earth, and also attempted to drop the ship itself on the planet, which would have rendered the Earth uninhabitable for decades, if not centuries. Fortunately, he was thwarted by the gundam pilots, though Wing-Zero pilot Heero Yuy later claimed that Milliardo, using the Epyon, contributed largely to the destruction of the remaining block of Libra that would otherwise have crashed to the Earth. It was assumed Milliardo was killed in the explosion.
A year later, during the holiday season of 196, Milliardo reappeared on the scene, joining the Preventers, and largely helping stop the Mariemaia coup. He had somehow acquired a powerful new mobile suit, later known as the Tallgeese III. Many rumors and theories exist as to how the former White Fang leader got the suit. One theory claims that OZ had begun developing it shortly after Treize Khushrenada's personal suit, the Tallgeese II, was completed. Another claims that Milliardo remained hidden for a year, building the suit in secret using parts salvaged from the wreck of Epyon. The most commonly accepted theory is that he was actually somewhere with Tallgeese engineer Howard, and that the scientist built the suit. (Coincidentally, Howard disappeared shortly following events in 195, and made his reappearance roughly around the same time Milliardo did.)
While the world was still reeling after the attempted coup, Milliardo again disappeared, this time with Preventers agent Lucrezia Noin. It was later found that the pair had been sent to begin experimental terraformation on Mars, a project Vice-Foriegn Minister Relena Peacecraft/Darlian had been working on for some time.
In AC 200, Milliardo was the first elected governor of the 'Mars Sphere', and he has been re-elected to the post three consecutive times, in 205, 210, and 215. One of his first policies was the establishment of a small military force, clearly going against the World Nation's policy of no armaments. Milliardo justified the Mars Defense Corps' existance as necessary, since Mars was the frontier at the time, and many criminals had fled to the Red Planet, most of which had access to old mobile suits. The World Nation Senate relented, allowing the force so long as only pre-existing designs, such as the Taurus, were used.
However, rumors abound that Milliardo is secretely preparing an army with which to take over the Earth. Speculation points to the close business relationship between the Mars provincial government and the Winner family, which owns several hundred resource satellites, several of which are within the Mars Sphere. Theorists also point out how close Mars is to the wealth of resources in the asteroid belt, resources that could easily be used to construct a force of considerable size. Another common argueing point is the fact Milliardo led the White Fang, and who's to say he isn't just biding his time, waiting for the chance to finish what he started? In further support of the conspiracy are the public-access budget records of Mars finances, which show several large donations from the Winner family, begining in AC 206, all of which are simply labeled as going toward "Project Eros" Theorists believe this to refer to the Near-Earth-Orbit asteroid Eros, a large asteroid that could easily serve as a launching point for an attack. Several investigations have been made on Eros, and to date, nothing has been found besides the old hulk of a satellite probe dating back to the AD 1990s. No one has found any signs of a secret military force or base, which heavily denounces the theory.
The common version of the Eros Project conspiracy has changed slightly since the war broke out between the Venus Sphere and the World Nation earlier this year. It turns out that Milliardo had contracted the PMS engineering group to build new gundams, strictly going against the stipulations of the Senate. Most think that the new gundams, as well as the remakes of the original Operation Meteor gundams, are the Eros Project. The more pessimistic believe the new gundams are only the beginning of a massive military offensive by Mars. World Nation investigators have not found any signs of military buildup on Mars, aside from the gundams, leaving the cynics with the rather farfetched idea that the secret base must be hidden deep in the asteroid belt where it could avoid detection.
Operating a secret military base so far from any civilization would be highly impractical, expensive, and difficult to maintain. It would also be extremely difficult to keep the entire staff required to run it silent on the issue, which raises further speculation on the base's existance, being as there is nothing to give away a location. Area 51, on the other hand, was known to exist, as they had signs posted along the perimeter warning against trespassing. There is no such evidence of an Eros base. If there was, in fact, a secret base, it would be a logical assumption that its perimeter would be marked or patrolled.
According to the Mars government, "Project Eros" is actually an emergency relief fund that was established during the terraformation period for victims of the red planet's then-vicious sandstorms. Available records indicate the majority of the Winner Corporation's donations going into this fund. However, there are portions of each donation that fail to be accounted for in the relief fund's records.
Update: November AC 216
In the course of the unrest that has spread since Venus declared war, the Earth's primary armed force, the Preventers, split into factions. Several Preventers, angered by the removal of Commander Une, rebelled against the government. Others, supportive of the appointment of Commander Josie Selvaggio, fought to stop the rebellion. In the course of the violence, the faction supporting Lady Une fled into space, and was aided by ships sent from Mars. The ships were not combat vessels, however, due to the interference, Lady Une's faction was able to escape capture. Mars Governor Milliardo Peacecraft has refused demands from the ESUN Senate to turn over the fugitives, and has also flatly refused to allow the Mars Defense Corps' military hardware to be confiscated by the Earth government.
To compound the mystery is this- It was later learned that part of the evacuation entailed orders to destroy whatever mobile suits and equipment could not be taken, so as to prevent them falling into the hands of the ESUN government. However, it is technically impossible for the fleeing forces to have had time enough to set up explosives. The only mobile suit in the area that could have possibly destroyed the entire base- the Tallgeese- was occupied in battle against Commander Selvaggio, and the new Preventers commander has verified that it was not the Tallgeese that triggered the series of explosions that leveled the complex. Analysis of the wreckage indicates the base was blanketed with high-power explosives, in a pattern that indicates the explosives were dropped from the air, similiar to military bombing tactics prior to the advent of mobile suits. No aircraft was detected on anyone's radar, however, and no one can confirm the source of the explosions.
Rumors are already spreading as to the mysterious bomber, since if an undetected aircraft did in fact attack the base, its stealth capacity must far exceed the current standard. None of the forces that were fighting in space reported seeing any unidentified craft, indicating whatever it is, must have exceptional technology, enabling it to fly an unknown distance, enter the atmosphere, attack a target, return to space under its own power, and escape undetected. To date, only vehicles equipped with high-energy-output hydroengines have the speed and fuel efficiency to meet those requirements. Conventional shuttles and mobile suit carriers can only make the one-way trip before refueling. The HEO engines are produced solely within the Mars Sphere, and are one of its leading- and most expensive- exports.
We may never truly know one way or the other if there is in fact some military secret hidden within the Mars Sphere, or if the Eros Project is simply the result of propaganda and speculation. Even if the truth is revealed one way or the other, there will always be another conspiracy to replace it. For RP Studios, this is Firefury Amahira, signing off.