Remember that mysterious rock that suddenly “appeared” one day in front of the Mars Opportunity rover?



From Ars Technica:

While most NASA scientists chalked it up to a curiosity and nothing more, one California man has decided that this explanation was not enough. On Monday, Rhawn Joseph, a self-described “astrobiologist” filed a writ of mandamus against NASA. In his 11-page brief, he accused NASA of a “dereliction of duty,” and wants to compel the agency to take “100 high-resolution photographs” of the rock in question.

Joseph further argues that he “immediately recognized” the rock for what NASA officials apparently could not: a “mushroom-like fungus, a composite organism consisting of colonies of lichen and cyanobacteria, and which on Earth is known as Apothecium.”

Not having been there myself, who am I to judge? Let’s, for a minute, fantasize that it IS a fungus. I wouldn’t get all that excited about it since we now know that some microbes survive (or mutated to survive) the clean room sterilization techniques used by NASA. More on that here.

Indeed, the European Union has sent craft to Mars and they’ve been criticized for improper sterilization procedures.

So, with all the craft sent to Mars over the years, a fungal spore could have survived the trip and, well, maybe not thrive, but lived despite the radiation factors of the planet.

Or, maybe it’s just a rock that the wind blew over to the spot.

Update 2/4/14: Scotty, beam me up:

Star Trek actor William Shatner has joined growing calls for Nasa to investigate a bizarre ‘jelly doughnut’ shaped rock on the Martian surface.

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’.

More at the link. NASA is speculating that a nearby meteor impact might have tossed the stone over to the Rover.