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Life on Mars?

Rock on the surface of Mars

Magic mushroom? (Courtesy: NASA)

By Michael Banks

You may remember the story of Walter Wagner, the Hawaii resident who set his sights on stopping CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

Wagner, together with his colleague Luis Sancho, filed a federal lawsuit in the US District Court in Honolulu in 2008 to prevent the LHC from starting up. In the lawsuit, Wagner and Sancho claimed that if the LHC were switched on, then the Earth would eventually fall into a growing micro black hole, thus converting our planet into a medium-sized black hole, around which the Moon, artificial satellites and the International Space Station would orbit.

However, Wagner’s court battle ended in late August 2010 when a judge from Hawaii threw out the case, finding that Wagner had no standing before the court.

But now another science-themed lawsuit has been filed, not by Wagner and nothing to do with the LHC, but rather to force NASA to investigate a strange object that appeared on Mars.

In mid-January NASA released a photo taken from the Opportunity rover of a strange white-coloured object. The weird entity was not visible on 26 December 2013 but the object mysteriously appeared in an image taken of the same spot on 8 January (see above image).

Despite wild speculation on the Internet, NASA concluded a rather more mundane explanation for the object’s origin. “We have looked at it with our microscope. It is clearly a rock,” Steve Squyres, the principal investigator of the Mars exploration rovers, told reporters last week.

Yet that was not enough for some people, including Rhawn Joseph, who asserts that it is in fact a living organism. Not satisfied with NASA’s explanation, Joseph has now filed a lawsuit in California to make NASA examine the rock more closely.

According to the writ, Joseph is a “scientist and astrobiologist who has published major scientific discoveries in prestigious scientific journals beginning in the late 1970s”. He has also apparently attempted to contact NASA boss Charles Bolden as well as “10 other NASA administrators at NASA headquarters” to persuade them to examine the object in more detail, all of whom have ignored his requests.

So now he has turned to the courts. The 11-page writ, submitted on Monday, states that Joseph “immediately recognized [the] bowl-shape structure…as resembling a mushroom-like fungus, a composite organism consisting of colonies of lichen and cyanobacteria, and which on Earth is known as apothecium”.  Joseph claims that the life form was there the whole time, growing until it became visible.

He now wants NASA to take 100 “high-resolution close-up in-focus photos of the specimen at various angles, from all sides, and from above down into the bowl” and make these images accessible to the public.

Yet the demands go even further. If the object is indeed biological, then NASA must acknowledge that the discovery was made by Joseph and “must ensure that [Joseph] appears as first author on and has final editorial approval of the first six scientific articles published or submitted for publication by NASA employees that discuss and present this discovery”.

So any guesses how long it will be before Joseph’s writ follows that of Wagner’s?

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  1. Anton Szautner

    Most amusing. They see ‘shrooms. They should get together with Hoagland. He saw faces.

  2. Philip Minchom

    Hoagland’s books are indeed strange and over the top. Methinks he doth protest a bit tooo much.

    However, (apart from the “face”) there do seem to be a number of curious photographs of the moon and of Mars, some of which he shows, others can be found on the internet.

    If, IF, only a few of them are authentic and not fakes (or illusions à la Schiaparelli) then it would seem odd that someone at NASA has not investigated further. (i.e. with better resolution). Or if they have and not made the results public then the conspiracy crowd might have a point.

  3. ross dalrymple

    Nasa bought this on themselves by saying that they have never seen another rock like this on mars before? So what are people supposed to think? If Nasa would release photos as they get them straight to the public instead of holding on to them for years and years I think the public would be more relaxed about the whole thing,after all its the taxpayers who’ve made it possible for Nasa to get the photos in the first place.


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