An astrobiologist filed a lawsuit Monday against NASA, alleging the agency wasn't doing enough to adequately investigate the possibility of alien life — specifically the mysterious rock on Mars that popped up a couple weeks ago that surprised scientists.
Rhawn Joseph, who has published articles in the Journal of Cosmology, a journal that has questionable repute among some scientists, filed the lawsuit in California court against NASA and its administrator Charles Bolden. He asking that the agency be compelled to "thoroughly scientifically investigate a putative biological organism on Mars identified/discovered by petitioner and referred to by NASA as: 'unlike anything we have seen before.'"
The left image was taken days before the right. Scientists were surprise to see a rock at the site. (Image source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.)
Steve Squyres with NASA did in fact label a rock on Mars as "unlike anything we've seen before," but the scientists are pretty definitive that it's a rock. W
hether he is referring to the same "jelly doughnut"-shaped rock that was missing in an earlier photo snapped by the rover Opportunity on one mission and then spotted shortly after in the same location on another mission, is unclear based on the news release.
Joseph in the lawsuit wrote that he examined the images of the rock and believes it to look like "a mushroom-like fungus."
To him, the "obvious conclusion" in this case is that the object "is alive and grew into the structure depicted when NASA's rover team took photos 12 Martian days later." Joseph believes the structure has spores that when exposed to the Martian weather began to grow.
NASA had hypothesized that the rock, dubbed Pinnacle Island, "may have been flipped upside down when a wheel dislodged it, providing an unusual circumstance for examining the underside of a Martian rock."
According to Joseph, NASA "refused to release high-resolution photos" of the structure.
The image on the left was taken on the SOL3528 mission while the photo on the right, showing the new rock, was taken of the same area in the SOL3540 mission. (Images: NASA/JPL-CALTECH)
"[The] petitioner made these discoveries whereas the rover team did not, simply because NASA’s rover team inexplicably failed to perform the basic demands of science, which is 'research, look again,'" Joseph's lawsuit said.
Joseph wrote that he asked NASA scientists about taking higher resolution photos and alleged that NASA refused.
"The refusal to take close up photos from various angles, the refusal to take microscopic images of the specimen, the refusal to release high-resolution photos, is inexplicable, recklessly negligent and bizarre," he wrote. "Any intelligent adult, adolescent, child, chimpanzee, monkey, dog or rodent with even amodicum of curiosity, would approach, investigate and closely examine a bowl-shaped structure which appears just a few feet in front of them when 12 days earlier they hadn’t noticed it."
Joseph called NASA's hypothesis that it be an overturned rock or something that dropped there as a result of a meteor "bizarre, absurd, ignorant and little more than magical thinking."
Joseph asks that NASA be required to examine the structure further, and if they find it to be a biological organism that he be listed as the first author on its scientific articles about such a discovery.
Update: Popular Science posted this statement from NASA regarding the lawsuit:
This is an ongoing legal matter and we are limited in what we can discuss about the filing. However, NASA has been publicly sharing our ongoing research into the rock dubbed “Pinnacle Island" since we originally released the images from the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity earlier this month. The rock, which NASA is studying to better understand its chemical composition, also was widely discussed during a Jan. 22 NASA Television news conference. As we do with all our scientific research missions, NASA will continue to discuss any new data regarding the rock and other images and information as new data becomes available.
Here's the full lawsuit:
(H/T: Popular Science)