That martian "jelly doughnut" rock that shook a solar system when it appeared before the Mars rover Opportunity in a spot where days before there had just been dirt? It's going to court... kind of.
Self-described astrobiologist and author Rhawn Joseph (one of his writings is titled "Biological UFOs. Evidence for Extraterrestrial Extremophiles. Life in Space") is asking a federal judge to force NASA to more closely examine the rock that suddenly appeared on Mars rover Opportunity's field of vision earlier this month because, well... it's clearly alive.
NASA says the rock was likely flipped into the rover's field of view by its wheels as it was maneuvering around the area, but Joseph -- who filed suit this week in a Northern California US district court -- is calling poppycock.
In the writ of mandamus -- which you can see for yourself embedded below -- Joseph refers to the object as a "putative biological organism...resembling a mushroom-like fungus, a composite organism consisting of colonies of lichen and cyanobacteria, and which on Earth is known as Apothecium."
Joseph goes on to claim that the object could not have simply appeared in the later images, because it's also in the earlier images taken of the same spot. He explains that a smaller version of the fungus can be seen in the same location in the early images of the location, and that it then grew to its current breakfast-pastry-like appearance.
It is the Petitioner's impression that spores were exposed to moisture due to changing weathering conditions on Mars. Over the next 12 days these spores grew and developed into the structure depicted (in the later 'jelly doughnut' images).
As evidence, he provides magnified, pixelated images of either a nightmare that I once had translated into 8-bit, or a Martian fungus germinating -- it's a little hard to tell which it might be.
In the document, Joseph also takes NASA scientists to task for not taking and/or releasing more close-up photos and microscopic images of the object, using rather colorful language:
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 idea might not really be as crazy as it sounds, given recent discoveries that the ingredients for life could just be floating all around space, but there's just one problem with Joseph's line of thinking: NASA did take a closer look.
"We have looked at it with our microscope. It is clearly a rock," Steve Squyres, who heads the Mars rover project, said during a recent news conference.
And for the record, that news conference took place days before Joseph filed his complaint on Monday, so it's likely not part of a cover-up in response to the filing.
Oh well, I guess my local haute cuisine establishment is just going to have to wait a little longer to be able to serve the finest Martian mushrooms. We're all still stuck with kale in the meantime.