Shatner asked Nasa about the strange Mars rock found by Opportunity via Twitter during a press conference on the Opportunity rovers latest discoveries – asking mission controllers if they had ruled out ‘Martian rock throwers’.
Mission controllers responding by saying Shatner’s theory was ‘unlikely’.
‘He’d like to know if you’ve ruled out the Martian rock throwers in the case of the jelly doughnut.’
Mars rover lead scientist Steve Squyres of Cornell University responded, saying ‘I think Martian rock throwers are unlikely, though we’ll keep our eyes open for those.’
‘We did actually have another scenario which we’re still thinking about.
‘It’s the ‘smoking hole in the ground hypothesis’ as I’ve called it.
‘We cannot yet rule out the possibility with certainty that there wasn’t a freshly formed impact crater nearby, and that this is a piece of stuff that was thrown out by a small impact. ‘
A controversial science writer has already filed a lawsuit against Nasa for their failure to investigate whether a rock seen on Mars is in fact an alien lifeform.
Last week the rock mysteriously appeared in front of the Opportunity rover, even though the same spot was empty a few days before.
It is believed the rock, which is made up of manganese, suplhur and magnesium, suddenly appeared after it was dislodged by a meteorite or even the rover itself.
But author Rhawn Joseph, who writes on a wide variety of subjects – including books theorising that life on Earth has its roots in outer space – rejects such mundane explanations.
The lawsuit, filed in a California court, is aimed at Nasa and requests that it ‘perform a public, scientific, and statutory duty which is to closely photograph and thoroughly scientifically examine and investigate a putative biological organism’.
Popular Science reports that Joseph has blasted the rock theory, since his examination found ‘the same structure in miniature was clearly visible upon magnification and appears to have just germinated from spores’.
In other words, it grew there.
The suit adds: ‘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 alleges that Nasa have not investigated the spore-rock closely as they trying to gut planetary exploration programmes and serve corporate interests.
He added: ‘The only other exploration is that Nasa’s rover team is outrageously negligent, obscenely incompetent, shockingly ignorant about basic biology and prone to magical thinking.’
Lead Mars Exploration rover scientist Steve Squyres recently told a Nasa event: ‘We are as we speak situated with the rover’s instruments deployed making measurements of this rock.
‘We’ve taken pictures of both the doughnut and jelly parts, and the got the first data on the composition of the jelly yesterday.
‘It’s like nothing we’ve ever seen before,’ he said.
‘It’s very high in sulphur, it’s very high in magnesium, it’s got twice as much manganese as we’ve ever seen in anything on Mars.
‘I don’t know what any of this means. We’re completely confused, and everyone in the team is arguing and fighting (over what it means).’
The discovery led Nasa last week to issue a Mars status report entitled “encountering a surprise”.’
‘Opportunity encountered a slight surprise — a rock had appeared in the images that had not been there before.,’ Nasa said in a statement.
‘This target that has been named ‘Pinnacle Island’ and its origin has been the target of much speculation.
‘It will likely be the target of considerable investigation over the next few days’
‘We saw this rock just sitting here,’ said Squyres.
‘It looks white around the edge in the middle and there’s a low spot in the centre that’s dark red – it looks like a jelly doughnut.’
The rover, which landed on Mars in 2004, hasn’t moved in over a month as it waits for better weather on the red planet.
But a photo taken on Sol 3540 (January 8th, or the 3,540th Martian solar day since the Opportunity rover landed) shows a rock that wasn’t visible in previous photos taken on Sol 3536.
Astronomers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, who maintain the rover camera database for Nasa, have named the ‘donut-sized’ rock Pinnacle Island.
Mr Squyres said the rock may be Martian rock that was blown out of the ground by a meteoroid impact and landed next to the rover.
Another theory is that the rock previously got stuck in a rover wheel and finally fell into its current position,according to a report in Discovery News.
‘[The rock] obligingly turned upside down, so we’re seeing a side that hasn’t seen the Martian atmosphere in billions of years and there it is for us to investigate,’ Mr Squyres said.
‘It’s just a stroke of luck.’
Opportunity has been on Mars for 10 years, despite being designed for a 90 Sol mission
A Sol, one Martian day, is slightly longer than an Earth day at 24 hours and 37 minutes.
Its mission has been extended several times as it continues to make new and profound discoveries about the red planet.
In December 2012, for instance mission scientists announced that Opportunity was exploring a special spot on the rim of Endeavour Crater.
The area, known as Matijevic Hill, was found to contain clay minerals, implying that the area was exposed to water billions of years ago.