For science fiction enthusiasts around the globe, NASA’s discovery of a mysterious rock on Mars brought speculators out in droves. Now, in California, NASA has been sued for not investigating the appearance of the Mars rock, nicknamed Pinnacle Island.
For those unaware, the discovery of Pinnacle Island occurred in early January, when NASA scientists were going over pictures sent from Mars by the rover Opportunity. Because of the Martian winter, the rover had been mostly shut down for days, not moving its wheels and only turning its cameras around to take pictures of its surroundings. Things were so dull for the rover that it was apparently photographing the same spot more than once over the series of weeks it lay dormant, waiting for the Martian winds to die down. But then, in comparing images of the same location taken weeks apart, scientists made an astounding discovery: a rock was lying in the middle of one picture, where none had been before. And not just any rock, but a strange white and red rock that the media claimed looked like a jelly donut.
NASA said it was likely a rock that had simply been knocked loose by the rover’s wheels at some point, or if more of a stretch was needed, a piece of debris from a meteorite hitting the surface of Mars. However, these mundane explanations were not enough. Pinnacle Island sparked the imaginations of many. And many more believe that some let their imaginations run away with them. Former Star Trek star William Shatner was present at a NASA press conference and apparently asked if the rock was perhaps there because of a game of Martian ring toss. Others said it could be a gift offering from the Martians, while still more believed that the rock itself could be a form of life.
While some of these suggestions are obviously jokes, one man did stand out above the rest of those theorizing, mainly because he took his idea and sued NASA for not thoroughly investigating the Mars rock. Rhawn Joseph, an author, PhD and neuropsychologist, claimed in his California lawsuit that the space agency had failed the scientific community in not fully investigating Pinnacle Island. Joseph also said that based on evidence he possessed, he believed the rock to be not a rock at all, but a fast-growing fungus such as those seen on Earth, and he was appalled that NASA was not investigating what could be the first form of life found on another planet.
NASA made no comment, simply waiting out the Martian storm and then ordering the Opportunity rover to move a short distance away and turn back to photograph the area. After studying the evidence, NASA scientists said it was as they originally suspected: Opportunity’s wheels had been the culprit. They found another rock overturned in Opportunity’s path that looked quite similar to the strange jelly doughnut rock and also found the rover’s wheel tracks running it over, which for most people will be proof enough that Pinnacle Island has no mysterious alien origin, aside from being from Mars itself. It remains to be seen if this explanation will be enough for Joseph, whose belief that the Mars rock was alive was enough to have him sue NASA for not fully investigating.
By Marisa Corley