NASA’s Response, Priceless

This morning NASA issued a public reply regarding the on going legal issue I posted about the other day. The agency is sticking by their earlier finding, that the rock which mysteriously appeared in front of the rover, is in fact a rock.

PopSci has more information about the story as it develops.

This is an ongoing legal matter and we are limited in what we can discuss about the filing. However, NASA has been publicly sharing our ongoing research into the rock dubbed “Pinnacle Island” since we originally released the images from the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity earlier this month. The rock, which NASA is studying to better understand its chemical composition, also was widely discussed during a Jan. 22 NASA Television news conference. 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.

The video at the bottom of the page is worth viewing as well. Plenty of information about accomplishments of robotic missions ongoing on the Red Planet.

A Red or a Litigious Crackpot?

I just came across this article on Pop Sci, turns out that someone recently filed a lawsuit against NASA which attempts to compel the agency to take some more photos of a rock.

The lawsuit, filed yesterday in a California court, is aimed at NASA and its Administrator, Charles Bolden, requesting that the agency “perform a public, scientific, and statutory duty which is to closely photograph and thoroughly scientifically examine and investigate a putative biological organism.” Joseph is disputing the rock theory, since, “when examined by Petitioner the same structure in miniature was clearly visible upon magnification and appears to have just germinated from spores.” (Joseph is the Petitioner.) The “rock,” according to the lawsuit, was there the whole time, it just grew until it became visible. “The refusal to take close up photos from various angles, the refusal to take microscopic images of the specimen, the refusal to release high resolution photos, is inexplicable, recklessly negligent, and bizarre,” according to the suit.

You can read the full article here as well as the legal filing. As far as I know, this is the first legal action intent on making the space agency look at something on Mars more closely. And Joseph may have a good point (not that we’re seeing signs of life on Mars) in that we may have missed an opportunity to see something special, more closely.

The problem, I believe, is that the science that is being done has become endangered by a frivolous legal action wrapped in the appearance of scientific intent. While this rock might be worth a second look, it is not the byproduct of Martian spontaneous generation. If that were true the material for growth would necessarily need to come from somewhere (likely proximal to the “growth”). I sure hope this kind of thing does not become a pattern.