I might be confusing two books, but here goes.

The book is about the infamous face on Mars. We find that it is a marker to something underground, but cannot open it as the ways/combination locks to open it are musical. They bring in a musician and he gets deeper and deeper inside until they find that they have activated it.

Now I believe the ending is that inside are these machines building a space machine and they need a nuclear power source and they take it from the gov that was going to blow it up as they could not control it. Sadly the machines building the rocket are not smart enough to know that the aliens that were waiting for a civilization smart enough to have nuclear power died in their crypts long ago, so the ship launches full of dead bodies.

  • sounds a little bit like mission to mars but that was a movie and the second part doesnt really match – severa Sep 9 '13 at 4:13
  • Makes me think of "The Martian Chronicles" but ... – Lee Meador Sep 9 '13 at 20:39
  • Also reminiscent of "The Tar-Aiym Krang", Alan Dean Foster. – JohnP Sep 9 '13 at 21:30
  • I think I read a similar story in an analog from the 90s. The story closed after the final chamber was opened, though. – Aaron Gullison Aug 12 '16 at 10:26

At least the first part matches Allen Steele's Labyrinth of the Night*. It might match the second part as well, but I don't believe that it was nuclear powered. It has been quite a few years since I've read it, though.

It is tied to a facility hidden underneath the "Face on Mars":

In 2029, an American research team ventures to Mars to investigate an astounding find: a labyrinth older than humanity itself, whose maze of rooms conceals the deepest secrets of the red planet. In the final chamber, strange music plays, as chilling as it is beautiful. It will be the last thing the scientist who discovers it ever hears. As the music rises to a climax, the chamber door closes, leaving him to die in the pitch dark.

Where one explorer has failed, Ben Cassidy must not. An internationally famous guitarist, his music is the closest thing on Earth to Mars’s deadly hymn. The government sends him into space to solve a planetary mystery, but what Cassidy encounters is a team of researchers whose jealous competition is every bit as dangerous as the secrets of Mars.

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