Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/01/29/nasa_sued_over_claim_that_mystery_martian_rock_is_a_fastgrowing_fungus/

Man sues NASA: Mystery Mars rock is a UFO – an unidentified 'FUNGUS' object

Rhawn Joseph PhD wants answers, alleges boffins haven't tried hard enough

By Iain Thomson

Posted in Science, 29th January 2014 21:52 GMT

Updated A California science author has taken legal action against NASA, claiming the agency is failing to investigate the mysterious object that appeared in front of the Opportunity rover on Mars last month.

Mars doughnut

One man believes this is a mushroom (click to enlarge)

"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," the lawsuit claims.

"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. But not NASA and its rover team who have refused to take even a single close up photo."

The petitioner, Rhawn Joseph PhD, claims that the doughnut-shaped object that appeared in front of the space tank is not, as NASA suspects, a piece of material kicked out by one of the machine's wheels. Instead, he claims to have provided the agency with proof that it is a biological thing: a fungus similar to those found on Earth that has sprouted and grown.

The rock appeared in a 12-day period between camera shots taken by Opportunity, although NASA says it has narrowed this down to a four-day window. Joseph claims to have spotted the beginnings of the fungi's growth in the first image the rover took, and said its dry and brittle appearance in the second snap is because it ran out of water after growing.

Joseph is demanding that 100 high resolution pictures be taken of the object by the Opportunity rover, along with 24 microscopic photos of the interior of the object, and wants them to be made public. If the object is a biological organism he also wants naming rights and his name in the first six scientific papers on the topic.

Joseph lists in the lawsuit his many qualifications in 30 years of science publishing with which to contest the case. He claims to have invented the term 'Astrobiology' in 2000 (rather than Nobel laureate Joshua Lederberg who began work in the field in the 1950s, who is usually credited) and has published paper on the likelihood of life coming to Earth from comets and meteorites.

Rhawn Joseph

Rhawn Joseph running with wolves

Judging from his website he's also a Photoshop enthusiast, and describes himself as single, "although he has certainly had his wild times, chasing women and carousing late at night, Joseph lives the life of a scholar and scientist who sometimes runs with the wolves."

Maybe a little less wolf-running and a little more research would have been helpful to Joseph before he launched his legal challenge. NASA explained last week at Opportunity's 10-year anniversary that the rover is investigating the object using its microscope and spectrometer. Mars Exploration Rover lead scientist Steve Squyres said the object contained unusual amounts of sulphur and manganese – and was definitely a rock. ®

Updated to add

"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," NASA told The Register in a statement.

"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."