A California man who claims that a mysterious rock recently photographed on Mars is actually a growing organism has filed a lawsuit against NASA for failing to investigate the discovery.
Rhawn Joseph, who describes himself as an astrobiologist, filed a petition Jan. 27 in U.S. District Court in northern California. Joseph asked the court to compel NASA to “scientifically examine and investigate a putative biological organism.”
“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,” Joseph stated in the petition.
“Any intelligent adult, adolescent, child, chimpanzee, monkey, dog or rodent with even a modicum 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,” his petition said. “But not NASA and its rover team who have refused to take even a single close-up photo.”
The space agency’s position is puzzling, Joseph’s petition states, since NASA referred to the rock in a press release as “unlike anything we have seen before… We are totally confused.”
According to earlier published reports, a photo taken on Sol 3540 (Jan. 8, or the 3,540th Martian solar day since the Mars rover Opportunity landed) shows a rock that wasn’t visible in previous photos taken on Sol 3536.
(A solar day on Mars, as measured by the sun’s movement, lasts about 24 hours and 40 minutes.)
A NASA scientist working on the Opportunity mission said his best guess as to how the rock got there was that the rover somehow flipped it up when it did a turn in place.
Rather than taking close-up and microscopic photos, NASA and its rover team “dismissed” the object as a rock or meteor, “which somehow just mysteriously appeared in front of the rover,” Joseph said in his petition.
It’s an illogical conclusion, he said, because there is no evidence of impact or a debris field.
In an article he wrote for the online journal Cosmology.com, Joseph said that a photo taken on Sol 3528 shows a small bowl-shaped growth on a Martian rock outcropping. In photos taken on Sol 3540, or 12 Martian days later, the small structure had become a “fully grown bowl-shaped organism resembling Apothecia (a mixture of fungus and cyanobacteria),” he wrote.
Joseph’s lawsuit stated that from 2010 to 2012, he lobbied Congress to provide a structure to raise more than $100 billion in private funds for a human mission to Mars. He also published the books, “A One-Way Mission to Mars” and “Colonizing Mars,” whose authors included “numerous well respected scientists,” the petition stated.
Among the six points Joseph included in his proposed court order, he stated that if the organism is biological, NASA must publicly acknowledge that Joseph made the discovery and must ensure that his name appears as the first author on the first six scientific articles submitted for publication about the discovery.
According to the website rationalwiki.org, Joseph is a neuropsychologist who previously worked at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System in California.