Skip to main content
Advertising

Originally published January 30, 2014 at 5:12 PM | Page modified January 31, 2014 at 4:48 PM

  • Share:
           
  • Comments (13)
  • Print

Court filing demands NASA take closer look at Mars

Rhawn Joseph, who describes himself as a neuroscientist and astrobiologist, filed court papers this week demanding that NASA do more to investigate the mysterious “jelly-doughnut” rock on Mars.


Los Angeles Times

Most Popular Comments
Hide / Show comments
I was wondering about how much the rock bed looked like a stone highway as well. Good... MORE
In the animation user01 posted, it looks like the smaller gravel that was just to the... MORE
Listen, if there is the tiniest possibility that there are jelly doughnuts on Mars... ... MORE

advertising

The saga of the jelly-doughnut-shape rock on Mars has taken a strange turn: to a federal court.

Rhawn Joseph, who describes himself as a neuroscientist and astrobiologist, filed court papers this week demanding that NASA do more to investigate the mysterious rock.

“NASA’s rover team inexplicably failed to perform the basic demands of science, which is research, look again,” he wrote in a petition for a writ of mandamus filed this week with the U.S. District Court in San Francisco. “The refusal to release high-resolution photos is inexplicable, recklessly negligent and bizarre.”

He asks the judge to order NASA to closely photograph the rock from several angles, thoroughly examine it and share that information with the public.

The rock is mysterious for a few reasons. It has a depressed, bright-red center and a white exterior (hence the comparison to a jelly doughnut). More important, scientists working with the Opportunity rover have acknowledged that its chemical composition is unlike anything else they have seen on Mars: lots of sulfur, manganese and magnesium.

But most puzzling is that it just showed up, seemingly out of nowhere. The rock appeared in an image taken 12 days after one made at the same location that did not show such a rock.

Steven Squyres, principal investigator for the Mars Exploration Rover Mission, said he doesn’t think the rock’s appearance is especially exotic. He and his team have theorized that it may have been dislodged when Opportunity made what he called a pirouette just up the hill from where the rock showed up.

“It drove in such a fashion that it would drag the right front wheel kind of chattering across the ground, and we think that in that process, it kind of tiddlywinked the rock out of the ground and moved it into a location where we can see it,” he said last week.

Joseph has his own theories. In the court papers, he suggests the rock may not be a rock at all, but rather a funguslike organism. If so, that would mean Opportunity has discovered life on Mars.

In a Jan. 17 post on the website Cosmology: Journal for the Advancement of Theoretical Science, Joseph makes the case that the formation is “a fully grown bowl-shaped organism resembling Apothecia,” which are “a mixture of fungus and cyanobacteria.”

Joseph is the author of several books, including “Biological UFOs: Evidence for extraterrestrial extremophiles and life in space” (2012) and “Astrobiology: The Origin of Life and the Death of Darwinism” (2001).

In an email, NASA spokesman Bob Jacobs said the agency was limited in what it could discuss about the filing since the legal matter is ongoing.

However, he said NASA had been publicly sharing its research on the rock and was studying it to better understand its chemical composition.

“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,” he wrote.



News where, when and how you want it

Email Icon

Meet the winemakers

Meet the winemakers

View video interviews, conducted by The Seattle Times wine writer Andy Perdue, profiling five of our state's top winemakers.

Advertising

Partner Video

Advertising


Advertising
The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►