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Life on Mars: Colonies of Photosynthesizing Mushrooms in Eagle Crater? The Hematite Hypothesis Refuted

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Throughout its mission at Eagle Crater, Meridiani Planum, the rover Opportunity photographed thousands of mushroom-lichen-like formations with thin stalks and spherical caps, clustered together in colonies attached to and jutting outward from the tops and sides of rocks. Those on top-sides were often collectively oriented, via their caps and stalks, in a similar upward-angled direction as is typical of photosynthesizing organisms. The detection of seasonal increases and replenishment of Martian atmospheric oxygen supports this latter interpretation and parallels seasonal photosynthetic activity and biologically-induced oxygen fluctuations on Earth. Twelve "puffball" fungal-shaped Meridiani Planum spherical specimens were also photographed emerging from beneath the soil and an additional eleven increased in size over a three-day period in the absence of winds which may have contributed to these observations. Growth and the collective skyward orientation of these lichen and fungus-like specimens are indications of behavioral biology; though it is impossible to determine if they are alive without direct examination. Reports claiming these Eagle Crater spheres consist of hematite are reviewed and found to be based on inference as the instruments employed were not hematite specific. The hematite-research group targeted oblong rocks which were mischaracterized as spheres, and selectively eliminated spectra from panoramic images until what remained was interpreted to resemble spectral signatures of terrestrial hematite photographed in a laboratory, when it was a "poor fit." The Eagle Crater environment was never conducive to creating hematite and the spherical hematite hypothesis is refuted. By contrast, lichens and fungi survive in Mars-like analog environments. There are no abiogenic processes that can explain the mushroom-morphology, size, colors and orientation and growth of, and there are no terrestrial geological formations which resemble these mushroom-lichen-shaped specimens. Although the authors have not proven these are living organisms, the evidence supports the hypothesis that mushrooms, algae, lichens, fungi, and related organisms may have colonized the Red Planet and may be engaged in photosynthetic activity and oxygen production on Mars.
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Journal of Astrobiology and Space Science Research
Life on Mars.... Journal of Astrobiology
88
Journal of Astrobiology and Space Science Research, 2020, Vol 5, 88-126, Published: 4/19/20
ISSN 2642-228X, !"#$%&'())*&+,-../'&0%)*&*&
Life on Mars: Colonies of Photosynthesizing Mushrooms in Eagle Crater?
The Hematite Hypothesis Refuted
Rhawn Gabriel Joseph1*, R. A. Armstrong2, G. J. Kidron3, Rudolf Schild4
1Astrobiology Research Associates, Stanford, California, USA.
2Aston University, Birmingham, UK.
3Institute of Earth Sciences, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel.
4Dept. of Astrophysics (emeritus), Harvard-Smithsonian, Cambridge, MA, USA.
Abstract
Throughout its mission at Eagle Crater, Meridiani Planum, the rover Opportunity photographed thousands
of mushroom-lichen-like formations with thin stalks and spherical caps, clustered together in colonies at-
tached to and jutting outward from the tops and sides of rocks. Those on top-sides were often collectively
oriented, via their caps and stalks, in a similar upward-angled direction as is typical of photosynthesizing
organisms. The detection of seasonal increases and replenishment of Martian atmospheric oxygen supports
this latter interpretation and parallels seasonal photosynthetic activity and biologically-induced oxygen
fluctuations on Earth. Twelve "puffball" fungal-shaped Meridiani Planum spherical specimens were also
photographed emerging from beneath the soil and an additional eleven increased in size over a three-day
period in the absence of winds which may have contributed to these observations. Growth and the collective
skyward orientation of these mushroom and fungus-like specimens are indications of behavioral biology;
though it is impossible to determine if they are alive without direct examination. Reports claiming these
Eagle Crater spheres consist of hematite are reviewed and found to be based on inference as the instruments
employed were not hematite specific. The hematite-research group targeted oblong rocks which were mis-
characterized as spheres, and selectively eliminated spectra from panoramic images until what remained
was interpreted to resemble spectral signatures of terrestrial hematite photographed in a laboratory, when
it was a "poor fit." The Eagle Crater environment was never conducive to creating hematite and the spherical
hematite hypothesis is refuted. By contrast, lichens and fungi survive in Mars-like analog environments.
There are no abiogenic processes that can explain the mushroom-morphology, size, colors and orientation
and growth of, and there are no terrestrial geological formations which resemble these mushroom-lichen-
shaped specimens. Although the authors have not proven these are living organisms, the evidence supports
the hypothesis that mushrooms, algae, lichens, fungi, and related organisms may have colonized the Red
Planet and may be engaged in photosynthetic activity and oxygen production on Mars.
Key Words: Lichens; Fungi; Algae; Mushrooms; Eagle Crater; Life on Mars; Astrobiology; Extremophiles;
Mars Simulated Environments; Water on Mars; Hematite; Oxygen, Atmosphere; Photosynthesis; Meteors
*Corresponding author: RhawnJoseph@gmail.com
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I. Mushroom-Lichens - Oxygen on Mars:
The Hematite Hypothesis Refuted
During the first 100 days of its mission
in various locations in Eagle Crater (Meridiani
Planum), Mars, the rover Opportunity photo-
graphed thousands of mushroom-shaped, li-
chen-like specimens, with features that include
stems and bulbous caps, a sample of which are
presented here (Figures 1-9). These specimens
are attached by thin stalks to the sides and tops
of rocks, and those top-side are often collec-
tively oriented in a similar upward-angled di-
rection, jutting above these rocks, as might be
expected of colonies of organisms engaged in
photosynthesis. Moreover, in subsequent pho-
tographs, some specimens on the top-sides ap-
pear to bend and arch downward (Figure 9).
Those on the sides and some on the tops of
these rocks or upon the soil were often oriented
horizontally or were bent downward as if due
to the pull of gravity on their top-heavy bulb-
ous caps.
There are no terrestrial analogs or abi-
ogenic or weathering processes which can
sculpt high density masses of mushroom-
shapes with thin stalks and bulbous caps out of
rock, salt, or sand, and which orient skyward,
above their substrates, in the same or similar
upward angled direction—as documented by
an extensive abiotic-image search, using rele-
vant key words (see Methods). In addition,
weathering and winds would be expected to
destroy not sculp these specimens if they were
abiogenic.
Mars is often buffeted by powerful
winds, and is seismically active (Banerdt et al.
2020), whereas these thin stems are an esti-
mated 1-2 mm in diameter and up to 6 mm in
length with top-heavy spherical caps. If con-
sisting of sand, minerals or salt, then powerful
winds, Mars-quakes, meteor strikes, or the tur-
bulence created by Opportunity's wheels or
drill (See Figure 3) would cause these thin
stalks to fracture and break and these bulbous
caps to tumble to the surface. Instead, they
have remained standing, and are oriented
upward, which suggests they recently devel-
oped and are in a state of continual renewal and
engaged in photosynthesis. In favor of this hy-
pothesis, the authors provide photographic ev-
idence of 23 spherical specimens, photo-
graphed in Meridiani Planum, 12 of which
emerged from beneath the soil and 11 which
increased significantly in size over a three-day
period (Figure 10).
Furthermore, a team of 14 established
experts in astrobiology, astrophysics, biophys-
ics, geobiology, microbiology, lichenology,
phycology, botany, and mycology have identi-
fied specimens resembling terrestrial algae, li-
chens, fungi, and mushrooms in the Gale
Crater (Joseph et al. 2020a), also located near
the equator. Also observed were what appear
to be open-cone-like gas-bubble vents--associ-
ated with photosynthesis-oxygen respiration
(Bengtson et al. 2009; Sallstedt et al. 2018)--
and which were photographed adjacent to
mushroom and lichen-like surface features (Jo-
seph et al. 2020a).
Oxygen has also been detected in the
atmosphere and within soil samples on Mars
(Leshin et al. 2013; Ming et al. 2014; Rahmati
et al. 2015; Sutter et al. 2017; Valeille et al.
2010). Although a variety of hypothetical abi-
ogenic scenarios have been proposed which
"could have contributed.... could have contrib-
uted... could contribute... could be a candi-
date..." (Hogancamp et al. 2018) for the gener-
ation of Martian oxygen "such as abiotic pho-
tosynthesis" (Franz et al. 2020) it is well estab-
lished that the primary source of oxygen, on
Earth, is via the photosynthetic activity of cya-
nobacteria (blue-green algae) and water living
and land-based plants (Canfield 2014; Hall and
Rao, 1986) including lichens (Vinyard et al.
2018; ted Veldhuis et al. 2020) which are fun-
gal-algae composite organisms. Hence, there is
substantial evidence of oxygen in the atmos-
phere and soil of Mars whereas surface fea-
tures which resemble oxygen-gas vents adja-
cent to lichen-like formations have been ob-
served in Gale Crater (Joseph et al. 2020a), and
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as detailed in this report, vast colonies of li-
chen-like specimens possibly engaged in pho-
tosynthesis have been observed in Eagle Crater
and which may be respiring oxygen.
It's been inferred that the spheres of Ea-
gle Crater, and by extension, the vast colonies
of lichen-mushroom-sphere-shaped specimens
consist of hematite (see Squires et al. 2004).
However, a number of investigators have re-
jected the spherical hematite hypothesis (Burt,
et al. 2005; Dass 2017; Joseph 2014; Knauth et
al. 2005; Rabb 2018; Small 2015). In a presen-
tation at the Lunar and Planetary Society and
paper published in the journal Nature, Burt,
Knauth and Woletz (2005) referred to the
spherical hematite claims as "inappropriate."
According to these scientists the hematite "in-
terpretation for features observed at the Oppor-
tunity landing site on Mars contains so many
contradictions and problems that an alternative
explanation seems necessary.... unlike all
known terrestrial concretions... they are uni-
formly spherical... uniform in their size distri-
bution (concretions have no implicit re-
strictions as to maximum or minimum size),
and uniform in their distribution in the rocks...
The frequent analogy to hematitic spheroids is
inappropriate" (see also Knauth et al. 2005).
Terrestrial spherical hematite does not
have a mushroom-lichen-like shape or a bulb-
ous cap atop an elongated stalk jutting upward
from rocks as if engaged in photosynthesis;
and which are the defining features of the spec-
imens presented here. Moreover, there is no
evidence that the stalked-mushroom-shaped
specimens or a single isolated sphere lying
loosely atop the soil within Eagle Crater, were
individually or selectively examined and ana-
lyzed by Opportunity's suite of sampling in-
struments for the presence of hematite. In-
stead, individual samples inferred to contain
hematite consisted of oblong rocks (see Figure
6 in Belle et al. 2004). Claims about hematite
were also based on the spectral signatures of
false colors (Soderblom et al. 2004), pano-
ramic images, and claims about the averaging
of high and low "temperatures" (Klingelhöfer
et al. 2004) when the temperature sensors had
failed (Glotch and Bandfield 2006); and with
spectra selectively eliminated until what re-
mained was interpreted as similar to the spec-
tral signature of hematite photographed in a la-
boratory (Christensen et al. 2004), when the
results were a "poor fit" for hematite and there
were significant problems with calibration
(Glotch and Banfield, 2006).
As admitted by Glotch and Banfield
(2006): "The gradual change of the instrument
response function over the course of the mis-
sion combined with the failure of temperature
sensors on the on-board calibration targets
...necessitated a change in... the instrument cal-
ibration... Figure 3b shows the Mini-TES hem-
atite spectrum recovered using a magnetite-de-
rived hematite target spectrum. There is a poor
fit to the 450 cm 1band width and position of
the emissivity minimum. Additionally, there is
a poor fit to the 390 cm 1feature that is present
in the test spectrum."
The hematite hypothesis also rests
upon the high concentration of iron detected
within the soil (Bell et al 2004; Klingelhöfer et
al. 2004, Squires et al. 2004). Lichens have
high concentrations of iron (Bajpai et al. 2009;
Hauck et al. 2007), and many species feed on
iron (Bosea et al. 2009; Fredrickson et al.
2008; Gralnick & Hau 2007). The presence of
iron does not prove the hematite hypothesis,
but instead may provide a substrate for biolog-
ical proliferation.
Furthermore, the Martian mushroom-
shaped spheres atop rocks and upon the soil are
a different color and smaller than terrestrial
hematite (Bell et al. 2004; Soderblom et al.
2004), averaging 0.6 to 6 mm in size and diam-
eter (Herkenhoff et al., 2004) which is also the
characteristic size of a variety of terrestrial li-
chens (Armstrong 1981, 2017) including the
specimens presented here. Nor does terrestrial
hematite have a mushroom shape and stem and
grow upward and outward from the tops of
rocks.
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Figure 1. Opportunity - Sol 40 (top) Sol 37 (bottom). Note similar elevated angled orientation of mushroom-
like specimens photographed growing on an unknown (fungi-like) substrate above the Martian surface in
Eagle Crater. These "mushrooms" are up to 8 mm in length, with stems approximately 1 mm (or less) in
width.
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Figure 2. Opportunity - Sol 88. These "mushrooms" are up to 8 mm in length, with stems and
apothecia approximately 1 mm to 3 mm in width, with what may be bulging hyphae along the rock
surface. The bulbous cap may be a spore producing fruiting body. Note "bore hole" (see Figure 3).
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Given the colors, size, favored loca-
tions, mushroom shapes, thin flexible stalks,
large bulbous caps, evidence of growth, flexi-
bility, and movement, and the collectively sim-
ilar skyward angled-orientation of these colo-
nies as if engaged in photosynthesis (Figures 2,
4-9), coupled with evidence of oxygen most
likely produced secondary to photosynthesis, it
is reasonable to argue that the specimens pre-
sented in this report may represent evidence of
life on Mars.
II. Methods and Results
The Eagle impact crater is 22 meters in
diameter, is likely several billion years in age,
and located in a large plain known as Meridiani
Planum. The rover Opportunity landed on
Mars at 1.95°S 354.47°E, in Eagle Crater on
January 25, 2004, 10 meters below the crater’s
rim. At near equatorial latitude there are about
12.4814 terrestrial hours of sunlight on the first
day of summer and 12.2299 hours on the first
day of Martian winter. Temperatures are esti-
mated to reach highs of 20°C (68°F) during the
summer to lows of -73°C (-99.4°F) at night
(see http://quest.nasa.gov/aero/planetary/mars.
html).
1. Search of the Eagle Crater Image Data
Base for Mushroom-Shaped Spheres
Methods: Throughout the first 100
Sols (Martian days) of its surface mission at
Eagle Crater, the rover Opportunity transmit-
ted to Earth several thousand images captured
via its Microscopic Imager and Navigation and
Panoramic Camera (see https://mars.nasa.gov/
mer/gallery/all/opportunity.html). These in-
cluded photographs of soil, crevices, rocks and
thousands of mushroom-shaped and other
spherical specimens.
Based on morphology and location,
and as determined by the authors, three differ-
ent types of spherical specimens can be ob-
served; A) Thin stemmed specimens, topped
with spherical caps (AKA "Martian mush-
rooms") which (based on parameters provided
by Herkenhoff et al. (2004) and Joseph et al,
(2019) appear to be up to 6 mm in diameter,
with stems up to 6 mm in length and 1-2 mm
in diameter and attached to the tops of rocks
jutting skyward and on the sides of rocks ori-
ented horizontally or downward; B) Round and
"lemon-shaped" spheres upon the soil surface,
some with long stems or short stalks or no dis-
cernible stalk (AKA "blue berries") up to 6 mm
in diameter; C) Gray spheres embedded within
thick wavy layers of what appears to be a cal-
cium-cement-like matrix.
Unfortunately, neither NASA or the
Opportunity team in their published reports
provided any detailed metrics about these im-
ages or the specimens depicted, other than in-
ferences and estimates as to the size of the sur-
face spheres (Herkenhoff et al., 2004), and the
estimated size of a few rocks and outcrops.
Therefore, it was impossible to precisely deter-
mine the exact height, size, orientation, or den-
sity of the mushroom-like specimens which are
the focus of this report.
Results: Based on surface features, 185
photos, photographed on 36 separate days in
different locations, and depicting, collectively,
several thousand stemmed-mushroom-shaped
and other spherical specimens, were selected
for detailed inspection. These 185 photos were
enlarged by 300% and visually inspected to
identify the presence of clearly discernible
mushroom-lichen-like features which included
a visible stalk topped with a spherical cap.
Several thousand specimens which re-
sembled mushrooms and that were clustered
together and attached via their stems to the tops
of rocks, could be viewed via these 185 images
which were photographed on Sol 28, 32, 35,
36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 46, 50, 63, 69, 71, 73,
74, 80, 81, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 97. It was deter-
mined, based on a visual inspection of these
photos and parameters provided by NASA,
that the abundance of specimens with features
similar to mushrooms appeared to be greatest
near the top sides of the crater rims facing the
rising sun, and lowest in the crater floor.
Thirty photos, photographed on Sol 37,
40, 81, 84, 85 and 88, were determined to
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depict the most obvious visual evidence of
mushroom-lichen-like features. These were
subject to additional visual inspection by all
the authors of this report and it was noted that
these specimens have hollow stalks (Figure 3)
typical of stemmed plants and various species
of lichen (e.g. Cladonia squamosa) and which
serve to transport water and nutrients upward
from soil and rock and which is distributed to
the above ground portions of the organism.
Illustrative examples photographed on
Sol 37, 40, 85 and 88 via the rover Opportuni-
ty's Navigation and Panoramic Cameras are
presented. Mushroom-shaped, lichen-like
specimens, attached by stalks to the surface
and upon rocks, photographed on Sols 37, 40
were observed to be oriented (pointed) in a
similar upward-angled direction. Clusters of
several dozen specimens, photographed on Sol
84 and attached by stalks atop a number or
rocks, were also found to be directionally ori-
ented at the same or a similar upward angle
above these rocks. The same is true of thirty-
six specimens photographed on Sol 88 on the
topside of a single rock; and collectively, sev-
eral hundred specimens photographed at vari-
ous locations on Sol 85 and jutting upward
above these rocks, are oriented, depending on
location, at a similar skyward angle. These
photos have been enlarged by 200% (Sol 37,
40) and 150% (Sol 85, 88). Based on published
parameters (Herkenhoff et al., 2004; Joseph et
al. 2019), these mushroom-lichen shaped spec-
imens are estimated to range up to 8 mm in
height and length.
2. Abiotic Image Search
Methods: To determine if there are any
terrestrial abiotic structures which resemble
these specimens, a Google and Bing image
search was conducted by three of the authors,
using A) key words "rocks" or "minerals" or
"hematite" or "salt" or "sand" or "weathering"
plus "mushroom" or "mushroom shape" or
"domed" or "diapir" and B) by inserting Fig-
ures 1-2 into the Google "Search by image"
function. Lastly, C) a "scholar.google" search
was conducted, using the same key words, and
the photos/figures from relevant articles exam-
ined.
Results: Thousands of pictures of abi-
otic specimens were visually examined, in-
cluding photos of salt diapir, hematite, serpen-
tine, shale, and granitoid rock. Not one of these
abiotic specimens resembled, in size, shape
and form, the mushroom-lichen-like speci-
mens photographed in Eagle Crater. The only
terrestrial analogs for the specimens presented
in this report are the fruiting bodies of mush-
rooms and lichens; i.e. living organisms.
3. Search for Life, Wind, Dust Storms,
Dust Devils: Sol 1145 to 1148
Methods: It has been previously re-
ported that 15 specimens similar to "puffballs"
(AKA "blue berries") have been photographed
by the rover Opportunity in Meridiani Planum,
increasing in size and emerging from beneath
the coarse-grained rocky-sandy surface as
based on comparisons of Sol 1145 and Sol
1148 (Joseph et al. 2019). Those authors inter-
preted this as evidence of biological growth but
could not completely rule out wind. It's been
estimated that the movement of coarse!grained
Martian soil requires wind velocities of 70 m/s
at least one m above the surface, but that ve-
locities of 40 m/s may "occasionally" displace
coarse-grained sand and soil (Jerolmack et al.
2006). Although on Earth, 20 km/h winds can
displace fine grained sand (Kidron and Zohar,
2014) these specimens are buried in coarse-
grained rocky soil. Therefore, it's possible that
pronged winds with velocities of 40 to 70 m/s
may have uncovered these specimens and con-
tributed to what appears to be growth.
To verify and replicate the observations
of Joseph and colleagues (2019) and to rule out
wind or other abiotic contributions to these ob-
servations, three of the authors searched the
Opportunity Raw images data base for evi-
dence of wind or soil displacement. All photo-
graphs from the Panoramic Camera (Sol 1145,
1146, 1147, 1148), the Front Hazcam (Sols
1145, 1146, 1148), Navigation Camera (Sol
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1146) and Microscopic Imager (Sols 1145,
1148) were visually examined for evidence of
wind-blown dust in the air, dust devils, dust
storms, or wind-driven soil displacement or
buildup. NASA's data base was also reviewed
and a search was conducted for reports of any
wind in Meridiani Planum on these dates.
Results: Comparing Microscopic Im-
ager photographs on Sols 1145, 1148, reveals
that 12 specimens emerged from beneath the
coarse-grained soil as they were not visible on
Sol 1145; and that an additional 11 specimens
increased in size. Therefore, in comparison to
the 15 identified by Joseph et al (2019) an ad-
ditional 8 specimens were observed to either
emerge from beneath the soil or increase in
size, for a total of 23. All surrounding soil in
Sol 1145 and 1148 appears to be coarse (vs
fine) grained with no evidence of displacement
or buildup.
No winds or dust storms in Meridiani
Planum were reported by NASA on Sols 1145,
1146, 1147, or 1148. Likewise, as based on a
visual examination of all photos between Sol
1145 and 1148 there is no evidence or compar-
ative evidence of wind, dust storms, or dust
devils or the accumulation or displacement of
dirt, sand, or dust, or soil buildup or "filling in"
and no evidence that soil is higher or lower on
one side of any of the specimens as might be
expected if subject to powerful directional
winds.
III. Discussion
4. Martian Mushrooms, and Eagle Crater
Over forty experts have previously
identified, by name, "puffballs," "mushrooms"
and "lichens" that had been photographed in
the Eagle Crater (Joseph 2016). In this report
the authors have identified and presented over
200 specimens, a sample of thousands photo-
graphed within the Eagle Crater, which closely
resemble mushroom-like organisms and li-
chens. These specimens range from 3 to 8 mm
in length and diameter, have thin hollow stalks
and bulbous caps; and colonies, including
those on adjacent rocks, are angled upward,
above these rocks via their stems, in a similar
direction which is typical of photosynthesizing
organisms. It was also noted that the density
of mushroom-shaped spheres appears to be
greatest near the top side of the crater rims fac-
ing the rising sun, and lowest in the crater floor
as based on Sol-photograph dates as related to
parameters provided by NASA. Moreover,
typical of numerous stemmed/stalked plants
and lichens these mushroom-like-stalks are
hollow (Figure 3) and tubular; a finding incom-
patible with any abiotic explanation (e.g. hem-
atite, salt, minerals), but which in terrestrial
plants serves to draw up, distribute and store
water and nutrients obtained from the soil.
In 1978, Levin, Straat and Benton re-
ported "green patches" photographed during
the 1976 Mars Viking Missions, which they
believed might be lichens. The Viking Labeled
Release experiments also detected activity
consistent with biology at two locations, Uto-
pia Planitia and Chryse Planitia, over 4,000
miles apart (Levin & Straat 1976, 1977); pos-
sibly that of lichens and algae (Levin et al.
1978). Condensation and sublimation of
ground frost (Wall, 1981) and water within
regolith was also detected via the Viking's suite
of instruments (Biemann et al., 1977).
Joseph and colleagues (2020a) have
also identified numerous specimens resem-
bling green and blue-green algae, lichens, and
open-cone-gas vents, photographed by the
rover Curiosity in Gale Crater. This crater also
appears to be subject to varying degrees of
moisture and displays evidence of water path-
ways and a history of being filled with water.
The lichen-like species presented here
were photographed by the rover Opportunity in
Eagle Crater, located in Meridiani Planum
which is 2 degrees south of the Martian equator
in an area known as Terra Meridiani. Gale
crater is also located near the equator. The
equatorial region has a warmer climate than
Utopia and Chryse Planitia perhaps reaching
highs of 20°C (68°F) during the day to lows of
-73°C (-99.4°F) at night.
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It's been hypothesized that Eagle Crater
has been repeatedly exposed to flowing surface
water and precipitation (Bell et al. 2004; Her-
kenhoff et al. 2004; Squyres et al. 2004). As
theorized by Squyres and colleagues (2004):
liquid water may have been abundant at Merid-
iani Planum which "suggests that conditions
were suitable for biological activity for a pe-
riod of time in Martian history." Thus, we see
evidence of what may be Meridiani Planum
stromatolites fashioned by cyanobacteria per-
haps billions of years ago (Rizzo and Cantas-
ano, 2009). In addition to bacteria, Squyres et
al (2004) suggests that Eagle Crater could have
been colonized by eukaryotic "filamentous mi-
croorganisms." The mushroom-shaped lichen-
like formations presented in this report also ap-
pear to be "filamentous" as some have what
may be hyphae extending along and bulging
beneath the subsurface and which emerge as
thin stalks topped by bulbous caps (Figures 2,
3).
The specimens presented in this report
have been previously referred to as "Martian
mushrooms" (Joseph 2014) and clearly resem-
ble lichens (Dass, 2017, Joseph 2016, Joseph
et al. 2019); though their exact identity is un-
known. Lichens are composite life forms and
maintain a symbiotic relationship involving
fungi (mycobiont) and algae/cyanobacteria
(photobiont), the former of which is largely re-
sponsible for the lichens' mushroom shape,
thallus, and fruiting bodies (Armstrong 1981,
2017, 2019; Armstrong and Bradwell 2010;
Brodo et al. 2001). To speculate: the bulbous
mushroom-like cap of the specimens presented
here, may represent the fruiting body of the li-
chen whereas the remainder of the lichen in-
habits the subsurface for which there is consid-
erable evidence in the form of what may be
bulging hyphae which snakes just beneath the
surface (Figures 2-3).
Many of the mushroom-shaped speci-
mens appear to lack a crustose thallus which is
a lichen characteristic (Armstrong, 2017, 2019;
Armstrong and Bradwell 2010; Kidron 2019).
Martian organisms, however, would be ex-
pected to adapt and evolve in response to the
unique Martian environment. The crustose
thallus could be endolithic or buried in the sur-
face layers of rock and soil (see Figures 1-3).
On the other hand, in contrast to the
green-algae-like specimens of Gale Crater (Jo-
seph et al. 2020a) and the observation of Levin
et al (1978) who reported "green patches" in
Viking photographs, algae-like specimens
have not yet been observed in Eagle Crater or
identified in Meridiani Planum. However, Fig-
ure 1(A) in Soderblom et al. (2004) depicts
pools of "blue" completely surrounded by
masses of compacted "green" sphericles on the
floor of the Eagle Crater. If these were true col-
ors, the obvious interpretation is the "blue" rep-
resents pools of water and the surrounding lay-
ers of "green" are green algae.
There is every reason to suspect that
Eagle Crater, where these mushrooms features
were photographed, may be periodically ex-
posed to ground water and water-mist precipi-
tation. There are indications that water on
Mars may be stored in underground aquifers
(Malin and Edgett 2000), and sequestered in
Martian rocks, hydrated minerals, or locked
within frozen ground (Plaut et al., 2007; Mus-
tard et al., 2012; Kieffer et al., 1976; Farmer et
al., 1977). Martian rocks and regolith, which
are porous with crevices, cracks, and voids,
also appear to contain water ice (Biemann et
al., 1977; Mellon and Phillips 2001).
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Figure 3. Opportunity - Sol 88. Bore hole drilled by the Opportunity's rotary blade (RAT) into the overlying
rock. All but one of the "mushrooms" (lower left beneath the red circle) were destroyed by the RAT, except for
their hollow stems/stalks 2-3 mm beneath the surface of the rock (Note center of red circle). The "mushroom" at
the lower left of the circle protrudes from the surface (note shadow) indicating it was flexible and was pushed
aside by the drill or it grew after the bore hole was fashioned. These hollow stems/stalks are a common feature
of numerous species of stalked/stemmed plants and lichens and which serves to transport water and nutrients
upward from rock and soil.
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5. Sources of Water
Depending on seasonal-orbital and
temperature variations, water frozen within top
soils, rocks, and regolith, may melt. Humidity
and rising temperatures may also increase sub-
surface/surface pressures thereby forcing ice to
liquify and water to pool upon the surface
(Mellon and Phillips 2001) as depicted in fig-
ure 1(A) of Soderblom et al. (2004) which
shows pools of blue surrounded by green on
the floor of Eagle Crater. Surface water would
then seep back beneath the surface, or turn to
mist or freeze and for which there is docu-
mented evidence in the wheel wells of the
rover Curiosity; i.e. frozen pure water ice (Jo-
seph et al, 2020b).
Four major reservoirs of Martian water
have also been identified, based on data pro-
vided by the orbital Atmospheric Chemistry
Suite, and the Mars Science Laboratory and it's
Environmental Monitoring Station, i.e. in the
northern and south poles (Kieffer et al., 1976;
Farmer et al., 1977), in Martian clouds
(Spinrad et al. 1963; Masursky et al., 1972;
Whiteway et al., 2009; Moores et al. 2015)
which likely consist largely of water as do the
clouds of Earth (Pruppacher and Klett 2010;
Hu et al. 2010); within atmospheric vapors
(Farmer et al., 1977; Korablev et al., 2001;
Smith et al., 2001) and in the upper atmosphere
which is subject to "large, rapid seasonal intru-
sions of water" (Fedorova et al. 2020).
For example, Fedorova and colleagues
(2020)--employing three infrared spectrome-
ters which are part of the Atmospheric Chem-
istry Suite on the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter
spacecraft-- examined atmospheric spectra be-
tween 15 to 100 km above the surface to ana-
lyze water vapor profiles. During the Spring
and Summer, water levels increased to super-
saturation and with thick ice clouds forming 15
to 40 km above and supersaturated layers 80 to
100 km and intermittently 50 to 60 km above
the southern and northern hemisphere. They
determined that "large portions of the atmos-
phere are in a state of supersaturation" thus
replicating the findings of other scientists
(Maltagliati et al. 2011; Todd et al. 2017)
Columns of water vapor have been ob-
served every spring and summer from orbit
(Read and Lewis, 2004; Smith, 2004; Todd et
al. 2017), and which are transported from the
north toward the equator (and thus to Eagle
Crater) by southerly winds (Harri et al. 2014).
Moreover, these vapors have a precipitable wa-
ter content of at least 10–15 pr μm
(Smith, 2004), and depending on humidity
(Harri et al. 2014) appear to reach saturation in
the early morning hours thereby inducing a
mist-like precipitation which may provide
moisture to organisms dwelling in Eagle
Crater.
Moreover, the stems of these "Martian
mushrooms" appear to be hollow (Figure 3)—
a feature typical of numerous species of plant
and lichen. These hollow tubes serve to draw
up water and nutrients from the underlying
substrate, and which is then stored or distrib-
uted to the remainder of the organism. Hence,
even during periods of diminished moisture,
water may be stored within these tubes, or
drawn up from within the regolith or soil, with
the heat of the organism serving to melt any
adjacent frozen-water supplies.
6. Photosynthesis and Seasonal Fluctuations
in Martian Oxygen
Cyanobacteria (algae) produce oxygen
via photosynthesis (Graham et al. 2016). It is
believed that early in the course of evolution,
Earthly eukaryotes acquired, via horizontal
gene transfer, cyanobacterial genes, which
triggered the development of pigmented plas-
tids and organells that made it possible for
plants and algae-symbiotes to evolve, engage
in photosynthesis and secrete oxygen as a
waste product (Buick 1992; Holland 2006),
thereby fashioning Earth's oxygen atmosphere.
Molecular oxygen in the atmosphere of
Mars was first detected by the Herschel Space
Observatory in 2010 (Hartogh et al. 2010).
Franz and colleagues (2017) have estimated
that the mean volume of Martian atmospheric
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oxygen is 0.174%. This is similar to the levels
of oxygen, on Earth, during the Paleoprotero-
zoic "Great Oxidation Event" ~2.2 to 2.0 bya
(Bekker et al. 2004; Farquhar et al. 2011). It
was during this "Event" when atmospheric ox-
ygen rose to >1% of modern levels on Earth,
an accumulative byproduct of oxygenic photo-
synthesis and the respiration of oxygen by cy-
anobacteria (blue-green algae) -- and related
species (Buick 2008; Nisbett and Nisbett 2008;
Olson 2006)--which may have first appeared
on Earth 3.8 bya (Uyeda et al. 2016).
Initially, however, photosynthesis was
anoxygenic, with H2 and iron being employed
as oxygen acceptors (Eigenbrode and Freeman
2006; Olson 2006; Sleep and Bird 2008). Li-
chens have high concentrations of iron (Bajpai
et al. 2009; Hauck et al. 2007) and iron is abun-
dant on Mars. Iron and H2, therefore, may have
and may still serve as receptors for Martian or-
ganisms engaged in photosynthesis.
As cyanobacteria and related photosyn-
thesizing Earthly species proliferated, they
formed symbiotic relationships and oxygen re-
spired slowly built up in the oceans, soil and
atmosphere culminating in the "Great Oxida-
tion Event" and reaching levels comparable to
and then surpassing those on modern day
Mars.
Lichens produce oxygen via photosyn-
thesis (Vinyard et al. 2018; ted Veldhuis et al.
2020). As noted, lichens are a symbiotic organ-
ism consisting of at least one green alga or cy-
anobacterium (photobiont) which makes pos-
sible oxygen photosynthesis, and at least one
fungus (mycobiont), the latter of which is
largely responsible for the lichens' thallus,
fruiting bodies, mushroom shape, and bulbous
cap (Armstrong 2017, 2019; Brodo et al. 2001;
Tehler & Wedin, 2008). Molecular analyses,
however, indicate that the lichen consortia also
include a wide range of bacterial communities
within the photobiont zone and on the lichen-
surface such as Sphingomonas, Methylobacte-
rium, and Nostoc, as well as a variety of eukar-
yotic Rhizaria, Amoebozoa, and Metazoa
(Graham et al. 2018). Squires et al (2004) has
argued that eukaryotes may have evolved on
Mars and features resembling fossilized meta-
zoa have been identified in Gale Crater, though
if they are abiotic is unknown (Joseph et al.
2020a). These symbiotic relationships have
proven vital in the ability of the lichen to sur-
vive life neutralizing and water stressed envi-
ronments (Armstrong 2017; Margulis and Fes-
ter, 1991; Kranner et al. 2008) and which pro-
mote mutual metabolism, energy conversion
and enhance the respiration of oxygen via pho-
tosynthesis.
Measurements of lichen electron
transport have demonstrated that O2 is gener-
ated by the alga and consumed internally and
any excess is respired, whereas CO2 is pro-
duced by respiration of photosynthetically gen-
erated sugars which along with fungal CO2 are
consumed by the alga (ted Veldhuis et al.
2020). More specifically, photosynthesis-pro-
duced-oxygen involves the absorption of CO2,
the transfer of multiple electrons, monotonic-
OO-bond formation, OH bond cleavage, and
the splitting of water molecules (H / O2) with
all excess oxygen released into the soil or at-
mosphere.
Martian specimens resembling lichens
have been previously identified in the Gale
Crater and Eagle Crater (Joseph et al. 2019,
2020a), including--and as reported here--vast
colonies which are collectively oriented and
angled skyward similar to terrestrial lichens
and plants engaged in photosynthesis. In addi-
tion, apertures resembling open-cone-like gas-
bubble vents were identified adjacent to the li-
chen-like specimens observed in Gale Crater
(see Joseph et al. 2020a Figures 16, 17) and
these apertures are associated with photosyn-
thesis-oxygen respiration (Bengtson et al.
2009; Sallstedt et al. 2018). It is reasonable to
assume that these and related species are re-
spiring oxygen; and this would account for ox-
ygen in the atmosphere and soil of Mars
(Leshin et al. 2013; Ming et al. 2014; Rahmati
et al. 2015; Sutter et al. 2017; Valeille et al.
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2010). Almost all oxygen on Earth is produced
biologically and the presence of oxygen is an
obvious biomarker for life. The same reason-
ing should apply to Mars.
The amount of oxygen in the Martian
atmosphere also shows seasonal variations, in-
creasing by 30% in the Spring and Summer
(Trainer et al. 2019). Levels of oxygen in the
soil, oceans, and atmosphere of Earth, also
vary according to the season and increase dur-
ing the Spring and Summer due largely to fluc-
tuations in the biological activity of photosyn-
thesizing organisms (Keeling and Shertz,
1992; Kim et al. 2019) and as related to in-
creases in temperature and the availability of
water and water vapor condensation and pre-
cipitation (Buenning et al. 2012; Keeling and
Shertz, 1992). These seasonal fluctuations on
Earth parallel the Spring/Summer increases in
oxygen, temperature and water availability on
Mars (Fedorova et al. 2020; Read and
Lewis, 2004; Smith, 2004; Todd et al. 2017;
Trainer et al. 2019); and these variations on
Mars in turn parallel seasonable increases in
biological activity and the respiration of oxy-
gen on Earth.
Given the evidence indicative of photo-
synthesis-oxygen-gas vents and what appear to
be algae and lichens in the Gale Crater (Joseph
et al. 2020a), coupled with what appear to be
colonies of lichens in the Eagle Crater which
are morphologically oriented in a manner sim-
ilar to photosynthesizing lichens on Earth, it is
thus reasonable to that they, and other photo-
synthesizing organisms dwelling on Mars,
contribute to the seasonal variations in Martian
oxygen, which in turn is regulated by increases
in temperature and water availability. In-
creases in oxygen by as much as 30% during
Spring and Summer is an obvious biomarker.
Although water may be stored within
the lichen (depending on species), water con-
tent equilibrates with atmospheric conditions
such that their photosynthetic activity, respira-
tion and growth is determined by water availa-
bility and decreases or increases accordingly
(ted Veldhuis et al. 2020). However, lichens
easily survive long-term desiccated states. In
consequence, lichens can be repeatedly dehy-
drated without any loss in their ability to en-
gage in photosynthesis and to release oxygen
into the atmosphere and surrounding soils once
sufficient water is available (Vinyard et al.
2018). Lichens are well adapted to survive and
engage in photosynthesis and oxygen produc-
tion, on Mars.
For example, despite long term expo-
sure to space and Mars-like analog conditions,
over 70% of lichen photobionts and 84% of li-
chen mycobionts showed average viability
rates of 71% to 84% respectively (Brandt et al.
2015; Meesen et al. 2014). Additionally, 50-
80% of alga and 60-90% of the fungi symbiote
demonstrating normal functioning (Brandt et
al. 2015) including the ability to engage in pho-
tosynthetic activity with minimal impairment
(Meesen et al. 2014). The angled-skyward ori-
entation of the mushroom-shaped lichen-like
specimens in this report should also be viewed
as an indication of viability and evidence of
photosynthetic activity thereby account for ox-
ygen in the Martian atmosphere and soil.
Furthermore, Martian atmospheric ox-
ygen and other gasses are believed to continu-
ally bleed into space (Jakosky et al. 2019). Ox-
ygen, therefore, not only increases dramati-
cally when the Martian environment is most
conducive to biological activity, but oxygen is
continually replenished; otherwise there would
be no oxygen in the atmosphere or soil.
On Earth O2 production via biological
photosynthesis (Canfield 2014; Hall and Rao,
1986; Vinyard et al. 2018; ted Veldhuis et al.
2020) is the major and primary source of and
which constantly replenishes soil, oceanic, and
atmospheric oxygen. Hence, it is reasonable to
deduce that cyanobacteria, and the Martian li-
chen-like organisms identified in Gale and Ea-
gle Crater, also produce and replenish atmos-
pheric and surface oxygen and may be respon-
sible for the seasonal variations in oxygen on
Mars.
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7. Spherical Hematite Hypothesis Refuted
It's been inferred that the spheres of Ea-
gle Crater consist of hematite (Squires et al.
2004). However, a number of investigators
have recognized that the hematite hypothesis is
not supported by the evidence and is incompat-
ible with the nature of these spheres (Burt, et
al. 2005; Dass 2017; Joseph 2014; Knauth et
al. 2005; Rabb 2018; Small 2015). Although
spheroidal hematite concretions (Moqui Mar-
bles) in the Navajo Sandstone of Utah, USA,
have been offered as a possible terrestrial ana-
logue (Chan et al. 2004), the fact is, the Navajo
concretions have a wide variety of shapes and
sizes and are distributed randomly (Knauth et
al. 2005) and none of them are topped with
mushroom shapes attached by stems to rocks
and/or orient skyward (Joseph et al. 2019).
Moreover, there is no evidence that
these mushroom-shaped Martian spheres con-
sist of hematite. Nor is there any evidence of
large bodies of water, ancient hot springs or
volcanic activity at any time in the past history
of Eagle Crater and thus there was no means of
producing hematite which requires a boiling
liquid or volcanic source at temperatures of at
least 900°C in order to form (Anthony et al.
2003; Morel 2013).
In an attempt to circumvent and explain
away the fact that the environment of Eagle
Crater has never been conducive to the creation
of hematite, it has been claimed that under "dry
laboratory conditions" "goethite" can be
"converted to hematite" at 300°C (Christensen
and Ruff, 2004). However, Eagle Crater is not
a laboratory and equatorial temperatures, as re-
ported by NASA, seldom exceed of 20°C. The
last time surface temperatures in Eagle Crater
reached or exceeded 300°C may have been
hundreds of millions if not billions of years ago
when struck by the meteor which cratered the
surface (Knauth et al. 2005).
Although Knauth and colleagues
(2005; Burt et al. 2005) did not address the
mushroom-shaped formation of Eagle Crater,
they proposed that the "blue berries" upon the
Martian surface may have been created upon
meteor impact. However, obviously, these top-
heavy mushroom-shaped specimens attached
to rocks by thin stems, could not have been
formed millions or even thousands of years ago
by any catastrophic or geological-weathering
process, as the stems would have long ago
crumbled, broken, and, along with their bulb-
ous caps, toppled over due to weathering,
wind, and frequent Mars-quakes as the planet
is seismically quite active Banerdt et al. 2020).
In fact, unlike hematite or formations of min-
erals or salts, the stems/stalks are hollow (Fig-
ure 3) a feature common to stalked/stemmed
plants and lichens (see: https://lichens.twin-
ferntech.net/pnw/images/large/Cladonia/squa-
mosa/27758PodetiaInterior.JPG) and which
serves to transport water and nutrients from
rock and soil.
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Figure 4. Opportunity - Sol 85. Top photo: 20-cm-wide rock (center, top) with specimens on sides of rocks
oriented downward and those on tops of rocks oriented skyward; differential orientations possibly due to
access to gravity, and direct sunlight and exposure to vs protection from wind. Bottom photo: sphere-shaped
and mushroom-shaped specimens upon the Martian surface and on center-slab of rock, all directed oriented
right-ward and perhaps top-heavy with fruiting bodies.
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Figure 5. Opportunity - Sol 85. Colonies of lichen-mushroom-like specimens approximately 2 to 6 mm in
length, photographed in Eagle Crater.
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Figure 6. Opportunity - Sol: 85. Lichen-like specimens approximately 2 to 8 mm in length. Orientation of
specimens on tops of rocks appears to be affected by gravity, or erosion of the rock surface, and may differ
depending on if they are or are not sheltered from the wind; i.e. those on opposite sides of rocks vs tops of
rocks may face different directions.
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Figure 7. Opportunity - Sol: 85. Lichen-like specimens approximately 2 to 8 mm in length. Note similar
orientation of specimens on tops of rocks and which may be affected by gravity due to the top-heavy bulb-
ous caps.
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Figure 8. Opportunity - Sol: 85. Lichen-like specimens approximately 2 to 8 mm in length. Note similar
orientation of specimens on tops of rocks and which may be affected by gravity due to the top-heavy bulb-
ous caps.
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Figure 9. Opportunity - Sol: 85. Two panoramic photos of the same specimens at different times on the
same day, i.e. %($&1$%234-/.3 567-53 .65-/389:;3<86=>3?.3%($%0$%234-/.3567-53.65-/3 89:;3<@6886:>. Note that
seven of the "mushrooms" within the red circles have bent down in a leftward or upward rightward direction
(bottom vs top photo). Although the change in angle is most likely due to change in camera angle, this
cannot explain the changes in the downward and upward direction. This supports the hypothesis that the
stems, top heavy with mushroom (fruiting body) caps, are flexible and that sun, wind, or turbulence asso-
ciated with the rover may have been contributing factors.
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Figure 10. Opportunity - Sol 1145-left v Sol 1148-right). Comparing Sol 1145-left vs Sol 1148-right.
Growth of twenty-three Martian specimens over three days, twelve of which emerged from beneath the soil
and all of which increased in size. Ground level wind speeds between 40 to 70 m/h are required to move
coarse grained soil on Mars, and no strong winds, dust clouds, dust devils, or other indications of strong
winds were observed, photographed, or reported during those three days in this vicinity of Mars. Nor does
the Sol 1148 photograph show any evidence that the surface has been disturbed by wind, as there are no
parallel lineaments, ripples, waves, crests, or build-up of soil on one side of the specimens as would be
expected of a directional wind (Kidron et al. 2017). Photographed by the Rover Opportunity, NASA/JPL.
Differences in photo quality are secondary to changes in camera-closeup-focus by NASA.
Figure 11. Comparing terrestrial fungi / "puffball" (left) with Martian specimens (right) Sol 221 photo-
graphed by the Rover Opportunity at Meridian Planum, Mars.
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Figure 12. Sol 182 photographed by NASA Rover Opportunity. A majority of experts identified these spec-
imens as "fungi" and "puffballs" (Joseph 2016). Note what appears to be spores littering the surface. NASA
favors a hematite hypothesis.
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Figure 13. Sol 257 photographed by NASA's Mars Rover Opportunity. Martian specimens resembling Puff-
balls (Basidiomycota), some with stalks and shedding what appears to be spores and the outer cap, lower
cup, and universal veil that covers embryonic fungi. To speculate further, the thick coats of white material
being shed from the sides of some specimens may consist of crustose, and the white powder-spore-like
material may consist of leprose. It is impossible, however, to determine with a high level of confidence if
these are in fact living organisms.
8. Data Does Not Support the Hematite Hy-
pothesis. Spheres Were Never Selectively
Analyzed
The problems with the hematite hy-
pothesis are legion (Burt et al. 2005; Knauth et
al. 2005; Joseph et al. 2019). For example: The
Opportunity's instruments were not calibrated
to selectively detect hematite and the cameras
were not capable of taking true color photos.
Therefore, the actual and true color of the
landscape, rocks, outcrops, sand, dust, dirt, is
unknown. Instead, composite false color im-
ages were generated by the Opportunity's pan-
oramic camera's 750-, 530- and 480-nanometer
filters (Soderblom et al. 2004). Based on these
"color composites" blues and greens were de-
tected throughout the lower landscape. With
the exception of the dull gray stones embedded
inside cement-like outcrop matrix (Bell et al.
2004; Squires et al. 2004) the spherules of
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Eagle Crater were judged to be yellow, orange,
and purple (Soderblom et al. 2004) whereas the
stemmed Martian specimens with mushroom
features appear to be purple in color (Figures
1-3).
As is well known, a variety of terres-
trial organisms including lichens and fungi
may appear green, purple, orange or yellow.
The Eagle Crater spheres upon the ground
("blue berries") and those jutting skyward at-
tached to rocks ("Martian mushrooms") were
judged to be purple, orange and yellow
(Soderblom et al. 2004). By contrast, terrestrial
hematite is variably colored black, silver-gray,
brown, reddish-brown, or red (Anthony et al.
2003; Morel 2013). Thus, based on these com-
posite colors from the Eagle Crater, the "blue
berries" and purple Martian mushrooms could
not be hematite.
Although investigators observed, via
photographs, specimens with lichen-like
mushroom features jutting up from rocks
within Eagle Crater (Bell et al. 2004; Squires
et al. 2004), there was no selective, focused at-
tempt to determine if they were biological or
consisted of hematite or other minerals. Fur-
ther, despite recognizing that the spheres (blue
berries) upon the surface were a different color
than hematite (Soderblom et al. 2004) and
much smaller than terrestrial hematite, ranging
in size from 0.6 to 6 mm in diameter (Herken-
hoff et al., 2004) it was assumed they must be
hematite based on inference and the interpre-
tation of results generalized from panoramic
images that included sand, soil, dust, and out-
crops, and as based on generalized all-inclu-
sive spectra recorded by the Opportunity's
Mössbauer Spectrometer, Alpha Particle x-ray
Spectrometer and Miniature Thermal Emission
Spectrometer (Bell et al. 2004; Christensen et
al. 2004; Klingelhöfer et al. 2004; Rieder et al.
2004; Squires et al. 2004). These instruments
were not even mineral specific. The response
functioning of these instrument also continu-
ally changed "over the course of the mission"
and did not correspond to pre-mission
"instrument calibration" thereby requiring ad
hoc calibration adjustments (Glotch and Band-
ford, 2006).
Hematite was never directly or posi-
tively detected in any of the spheres by the
spectrometers. Instead, its possible presence
was inferred based, for example, on the aver-
aging of what were assumed to be high and low
temperatures derived from outcrops and plains
(Klingelhöfer et al. 2004), and the elimination
of spectral signals until arriving at spectral sig-
natures that could be interpreted as similar to
hematite in a controlled laboratory setting
(Christensen et al. 2004).
As is well established, different colors
have different spectra and differentially absorb
and reflect light and heat. Likewise, biological
organisms generate heat and their pigments re-
flect and absorb different spectra. Moreover,
Martian sand, dust, dirt, rocks, outcrops, all ap-
peared to and would be expected to have dif-
ferent albedos, colors (Bell et al. 2004;
Klingelhöfer et al. 2004; Soderblom et al.
2004) and heat signatures. However, the tem-
perature and true color of the Eagle Crater
landscape are unknown.
Nevertheless, the spectra from false
colors created by the camera filters were ana-
lyzed and compared to "test spectrum" ob-
tained from a "magnetite-derived hematite" la-
boratory sample; and as admitted by Glotch
and Bandfied (2006), the data was nevertheless
a "poor fit" and did not match laboratory sam-
ples.
Moreover, all obtained spectral signa-
tures were confounded and contaminated by
numerous uncontrolled and unknown varia-
bles, the properties of which could not be ac-
curately and precisely determined. Hence, due
to depth of field, reflected light from the Op-
portunity and the differential angles of the sur-
rounding objects, and layers of obscuring dust
and sand, and as the temperature sensors had
failed, it was impossible for the Opportunity's
suite of spectral sampling instruments to obtain
accurate and selective spectral signatures. All
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data collected included dust, dirt, sand, out-
crops, large flat oblong rocks, surrounding ma-
trix and soil, were affected by reflected light
and atmospheric temperatures and solar radi-
ance; and then the data was combined, ad-
justed, averaged, and then attributed to the
spheres which were falsely claimed to contain
hematite (Christensen et al. 2004; Klingelhöfer
et al. 2004; Rieder et al. 2004). As admitted by
Grotzinger et al. (2005): the spectra from rocks
lying on the surface were "indistinguishable
from that of the average spectral character of
dust." And as acknowledged by Klingelhöfer
and colleagues (2004): "images obtained by
the Microscopic Imager sampled only outcrop
matrix." And yet, the Opportunity's team of in-
vestigators, claimed that the spheres consisted
of hematite despite having no accurate data to
support this interpretation.
Despite "the failure of temperature sen-
sors on the on-board calibration targets"
(Glotch and Bandfield 2006) Klingelhöfer and
colleagues (2004) claimed to have averaged
high and low temperatures from multiple
sources, and inferred the existence of hematite
within the spheres based on these generalized
averages. Klingelhöfer et al. (2004), admitted
that spectra were believed to "imply" hematite
and were therefore "assigned to hematite"
(Klingelhöfer et al. 2004).
Furthermore, the data that was claimed
to have been obtained from single spheres were
obtained from panoramic views of the land-
scape (Christensen et al. 2004; Klingelhöfer et
al. 2004) and from flat oblong rocks which
were then inexplicably mischaracterized as
spheres (see Figure 6 in Bell et al. 2004). Not
only did Bell et al (2004) utilize multiple im-
ages and spectra from a single large oblong
rock, but their data was also based on pano-
ramic photographs depicting multiple features,
and was contaminated by solar radiance, at-
mospheric irradiance, surface temperature and
albedo which could only be guessed at and es-
timated, thus confounding the data. Further-
more, Bell et al (2004) admitted the data is "not
consistent" with solid hematite but jarosite and
ferric iron and "exhibit crystalline ferric iron
spectral signatures." And yet, Bell (2004) and
the others claimed that the spheres contained
hematite (Christensen et al. 2004; Klingelhöfer
et al. 2004; Squires et al. 2004) when this con-
founded data was actually derived from a sin-
gle oblong rock and there was no data based on
or selectively derived from these spheres to
substantiate this assumption which was based
on inference and speculation.
Christensen and colleagues (2004),
also claimed to have directly examined these
spheres but instead relied on panoramic images
to determine "the mineral abundances and
compositions of outcrops, rocks, and soils" via
the "Miniature Thermal Emission Spectrome-
ter (Mini-TES)." According to Christensen et
al. (2004) the Mini-TES "collects infrared
spectra and were combined with panoramic
images and as based on thermophysical prop-
erties, atmospheric temperature profiles and at-
mospheric dust and ice opacities." Thus, the
Mini-Tes acquired its data not by examining a
single sphere, but from composites obtained
from "ice opacities" when no ice was observed,
atmospheric temperatures when the tempera-
ture sensors had failed and the atmospheric
temperature was (and is) unknown, and from
large panoramas via "long-integration single-
point stares at 14 locations along the out-
crops... and vertical scans of the plains." Chris-
tensen et al. (2004) also acknowledged that
their data was affected by "reduced spectral
contrast" and was "likely contaminated" by
sand, dust, and other materials, and which led
them to "overestimate the hematite."
Christensen et al. (2004) also admit
that they removed spectra "by first deconvolv-
ing each spectrum with an end member library
of 47 laboratory minerals and four scene spec-
tra...and then subtracting" spectra until this
"derived spectrum" could be interpreted to re-
semble "a laboratory hematite sample." Thus,
the inferred presence of hematite was based on
the selective elimination of spectral signals
Journal of Astrobiology and Space Science Research
Life on Mars.... Journal of Astrobiology
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until arriving at a spectrum that was interpreted
to be similar to the spectral signature of a sam-
ple of hematite examined in a laboratory set-
ting; the lighting and controlled conditions of
which, of course, would be completely differ-
ent from Eagle Crater or a natural terrestrial
environment.
Although soils and outcrop matrixes of
Eagle Crater likely contain considerable iron
and jarosite (Bell et al. 2004; Christensen et al.
(2004; Herkenhoff et al., 2004; Klingelhöfer et
al. 2004; Rieder et al. 2004; Squyres et al.
2004), the fact is: no direct evidence of hema-
tite was found, the presence of iron was in-
ferred to indicate hematite, and not one of the
thousands of mushroom-shaped lichen-like
specimens (Martian mushrooms) photo-
graphed in Eagle crater were individually or
selectively examined by Opportunity's suite of
spectral sampling instruments for any evidence
of hematite. Likewise, the spheres (blue ber-
ries) upon the soil were never directly, selec-
tively, individually, and specifically examined
for the presence of hematite or spectra that
might imply hematite. Oblong rocks are not
spheres. The spectrometers employed were not
even mineral specific, there were problems
with calibration, temperature sensors had
failed, and the data obtained was generalized
from multiple sources then combined, manip-
ulated, averaged, or selectively deleted, until
what remained was still a "poor fit" for spectra
obtained from laboratory samples. Thus, there
is no convincing or significant evidence to sup-
port the claims that these spheres, especially
those with stalks and caps, consist of hematite.
9. Meteors, Spherules, Solar Winds, and the
Interplanetary Transfer of Life
Knauth et al. (2005) have hypothesized
that the spheres of Eagle Crater were fashioned
following a "large iron meteorite impact"
which interacted with regolith "containing
salts, ice, and brine" and that an "enormous wet
surge created by this impact" produced "fine
basaltic particles, salts, ice, brine, accretionary
lapilli and... a large population of iron
condensation spherules." In support of this ar-
gument, they point out that: "Large impacts are
known to produce condensation spherules"
(see Lowe et al. 2003) and that spherules (aka
tektites) have been found in the Ries Crater in
Germany (Graup, 1981). However, impact-in-
duced spherules are typically black (or dark
red), and those in Ries Crater, and other craters
are most likely secondary to volcanic activity
(Bohor and Glass, 1995; Gaup, 1981; German,
2020).
There is no history or evidence of vol-
canic activity in Eagle Crater. Moreover, ter-
restrial spherules, created by impact or vulcan-
ism have absolutely no resemblance to the
Martian mushrooms-lichens presented in this
report. Tektites, volcanic, and impact spher-
ules do not have long thin stems, attached to
rocks, topped by mushroom-shaped caps, and
which form vast colonies which orient sky-
ward.
However, it is possible species ancestral
to those detected in Eagle and Gale Crater, may
have been deposited on Mars via meteor, aster-
oid, comet or solar winds; and that Mars, Earth,
and Venus, may have repeatedly exchanged
life beginning billions of years ago via micro-
bial-laden atmospheric dust and bolides
ejected into space (Arrhenius, 1908; Beech et
al. 2018; Joseph, 1997, 2009; Joseph and
Schild 2010; Melosh 2003). Microbes, fungi,
spores and lichens have been recovered from
Earth's upper atmosphere. Powerful solar
winds have repeatedly blown material from the
upper atmosphere into space (Reviewed by Jo-
seph 2019). Studies have shown that these
same microbes can survive over a year exposed
to direct space outside the ISS. If fungi, li-
chens, and spores are ejected into space from
the upper atmosphere, they could reach Mars
in less than 12 weeks. Certainly, survivors
would be expected to go forth and multiply.
Over 635,000 impact craters at least 1
km (0.6 miles) wide, have been located on
Mars (Robbins and Hynek, 2012) whereas
there are 200 known major terrestrial impact
Journal of Astrobiology and Space Science Research
Life on Mars.... Journal of Astrobiology
114
craters (Earth Impact Database, 2019). In addi-
tion, over the course of the last 550 million
years on Earth there have been 97 major im-
pacts, leaving craters at least 5 kilometers
across (Earth Impact Database, 2019). Hence,
both Mars and Earth have been struck thou-
sands of times resulting in the ejection of mil-
lions of rocks, boulders and tons of debris into
space (Beech et al. 2018; Melosh, 1989, 2003;
Van Den Bergh, 1989) along with any adher-
ing microbes, spores, and fungi.
Given that microbes can survive the
shock of a violent impact and hyper velocity
launch ejecting them into space, as well as di-
rect exposure to space and the descent to the
surface of a planet (reviewed by Joseph 2019),
the interplanetary transfer of viable microor-
ganisms, via bolides, within our Solar System,
is overwhelmingly likely (Beech et al. 2018);
beginning, possibly, soon after life appeared
on Earth over 3.8 bya. It’s been estimated,
given a 25 km/s impactor velocity, that up to
5.5 x 1012 kg of debris and approximately “1013
kg of potentially life-bearing matter has been
ejected from Earth’s surface into the inner so-
lar system” (Beech et al. 2018) along with un-
known volumes of water, and perhaps millions
of trillions of organisms buried within ejecta
(Joseph 2009, 2019).
If life first began on Earth, Mars, Venus,
or on planets from other solar systems and gal-
axies, is unknown. However, it appears that
early in the history of this solar system, 3.8
bya, life was already present on Mars (Noffke
2015; Thomas-Keprta et al. (2002, 2009) and
Earth (Pflug 1978 Mojzsis et al. 1996; Rosing
and Frei 2004), which supports the hypothesis
that living organisms were deposited on both
planets during a period known as the heavy
bombardment (Joseph 2009; Joseph et al.
2019). Therefore, although it is improbable
that an impacting meteor fashioned the Mar-
tian mushrooms described in this report, the
ancestors to these putative Martian organisms
may have been deposited on Mars (and Earth),
from space.
10. Three Types of Spheres: Martian Mush-
rooms, Cement Concretions, Blue Berry
Puffballs
Martian Mushrooms: The "Martian
mushrooms" presented here are up to 8 mm in
length, have thin stems up to 5 mm in length
and less than 1 mm in diameter and topped
with bulbous caps up to 6 mm in diameter.
These specimens have a different morphology,
color, and are smaller than hematite; there is no
evidence to support the belief these are hema-
tite; their caps and stalks appear uniform in
shape which is a biological and not an abio-
genic trait as well as being characteristic of liv-
ing lichens and mushrooms. As to those on the
top-sides of rocks, their collective, flexible up-
ward angled orientation is exactly what would
be expected of photosynthesizing organisms.
By contrast, those on the sides of rocks, and
being top-heavy with bulbous caps, are pulled
downward as if by gravity. Furthermore, those
on the tops and sides of rocks have an obvious
and completely different structural organiza-
tion and composition from the outcrops and
rocks from which they jut out skyward or
downward, and distinctly different visible and
infrared properties as compared to these out-
crops (Bell et al., 2004) indicating they were
not sculpted from rock. In addition, several
specimens on the top-sides of rocks appeared
to change their angle of orientation during a
single day, such that arched downward, thus
suggesting that their stems (top-heavy with
bulbous caps) are flexible (Figure 9). In all re-
spects these Martian mushrooms appear bio-
logical and distinct from surface substrates.
There are, however, two other types of
"spheres" that have been observed and photo-
graphed in Eagle Crater and which differ sig-
nificantly from the thin stemmed "Martian
mushrooms" and each other, in morphology,
location, color and attached substrate: A) "yel-
low, orange and purple" spheres upon the soil
(Soderblom et al. 2004) which have been re-
ferred to as "blue berries" and resemble fungal
"puffballs" (Dass 2017, Joseph 2016; Joseph et
Journal of Astrobiology and Space Science Research
Life on Mars.... Journal of Astrobiology
115
al. 2019; Rabb 2018); and B) gray spheroidal
cement-like concretions (Bell et al. 2004;
Squyres et al. 2004; Herkenhoff et al. 2004).
Cement-like Concretions and Fossil-
ization: In contrast to Martian mushrooms and
"blue berries" the gray spheroidal-cement-like
concretions are embedded in a cement-like ma-
trix (Bell et al. 2004; Squyres et al. 2004; Her-
kenhoff et al. 2004) and have been described
as "harder than surrounding rock" (Squyres et
al. 2004) though what they consist of was
never determined. It is believed that these gray
spheroids had undergone "cementation"
thereby "cementing" this matrix and the con-
cretions embedded in this cement (Herkenhoff
et al. 2004). If these represent a form of fossil-
ization unique to the Martian environment, if
they consist of calcium, or were formed sec-
ondary to iron metabolism, or if they are com-
pletely abiogenic, is unknown.
However, based on terrestrial analogs,
the lichen-like specimens growing atop rocks
may contain iron which is a lichen characteris-
tic (Bajpai et al. 2009; Hauck et al. 2007).
Many species feed on iron. If these specimens,
due to the unique Martian and iron-rich envi-
ronment, have a greater uptake of iron as com-
pared to terrestrial species, is unknown. More-
over, cyanobacteria produce calcium via their
secretions. To speculate, could high levels of
iron uptake or calcium secretions make these
specimens "harder than rock" if fossilized such
as following a sudden change in the biosphere
due to a catastrophic event-- thus accounting
for the embedded gray cement-like concretions
observed by Squyres and colleagues (2004;
Bell et al. 2004; Herkenhoff et al. 2004)? Fos-
silization, cannot be ruled out.
Blue Berry Puffballs and Growth vs
Wind: Specimens similar to "puffballs" ("blue
berries") have been observed on the Martian
surface of Meridiani Planum (Dass 2017; Jo-
seph 2014; Rabb, 2015, 2018; Small, 2015).
Some of these ground-level specimens have
"lemon shapes," others have a short or long
thin stalk, but the majority appear to have no
discernible stalk. Furthermore, with the excep-
tion of those attached to an unknown (fungi-
like) substrate and which, via that substrate, are
elevated above the ground (Figures 1, 4) most
ground level spheres, including those with long
and thin stalks lay upon the surface as if they
fell over. Even those observed to emerge from
beneath the soil do not rise up on their stems as
is typical of mushrooms and lichens; and
which may be due to the inability of the soil to
support them. The answer to this is unknown.
However, it is possible that those upon the soil
(vs those on rocks) consist of many different
species, assuming they are biological.
The biological interpretation is sup-
ported by the previously reported observation
of fifteen spherical specimens which increased
in size and emerged from beneath the coarse
grained surface (Joseph et al. 2019). Here we
present pictorial evidence of twenty-three puff-
ball-shaped specimens, photographed on Sol
1148 which increased in size over a three-day
period, twelve of which were not visible three
days earlier on Sol 1145 (Figure 10). We have
determined that wind was not a factor in the
emergence and size increase of these speci-
mens.
It's been estimated that the movement
of coarse!grained Meridiani Planum soil re-
quires wind velocities of 70 m/s at least one m
above the surface, but that velocities of 40 m/s
may "occasionally" displace coarse-grained
sand and soil (Jerolmack et al. 2006). Alt-
hough on Earth, ground level 20 km/h winds
can displace fine grained sand (Kidron and Zo-
har, 2014) all surrounding soil in Sol 1145 and
1148 is rocky and coarse (vs fine) grained.
Soil crusts, including and especially
those infiltrated by micro-organisms, are rela-
tively resilient to wind erosion. In a two year
study of soil and wind in the Negev Desert--
considered to be a Mar-like analog environ-
ment (Kidron 2019)--it was reported that only
exceptionally strong and prolonged winds
were capable of crust rupture, disintegration or
flaking and the removal or erosion of buried
Journal of Astrobiology and Space Science Research
Life on Mars.... Journal of Astrobiology
116
crust (Kidron et al. 2017). No strong winds or
dust storms in Meridiani Planum were reported
by NASA on Sols 1145, 1146, 1146, or 1148.
Likewise, there is no evidence or comparative
evidence of wind, dust storms, or dust devils or
the accumulation of dirt, sand, ripples, lines, or
dust as based on a visual examination of all
photos between Sol 1145 and 1148. Nor is
there any evidence of soil or sand displace-
ment, soil or sand buildup or "filling in" or that
soil is higher or lower on one side of any of
these specimens as might be expected if sub-
ject to powerful directional winds (Kidron et
al. 2017). It is reasonable to deduce that these
puffball-shaped spheres grew up out of the
ground and expanded in size over a three-day
period.
11. Fungi and Lichens Survive Extreme and
Simulated Martian Environments
The mushroom-shaped specimens in
this report are different in all respects from
hematite and the cement-like concretions em-
bedded in the cement-like matrix and which do
not have a thin stalk capped by a mushroom-
like appendage. These "Martian mushrooms"
can also be distinguished from the surface-
dwelling spheres (blue berries / puffballs)
which do not have a mushroom shape. The
"puffballs" are most likely fungi. By contrast,
morphologically the "Martian Mushrooms" re-
semble lichenised fungi/alga and non-lichen-
ised fungi.
It has been repeatedly documented that
fungi, algae, and lichens are adapted for life on
Mars (reviewed by Joseph et al. 2019) and sur-
vive in Mars analog environments (reviewed
by de Vera et al. 2019). In experiments lasting
a year or more, it's been demonstrated that
fungi, algae and lichens survive in space out-
side the International Space Station, and expo-
sure to UV radiation, cosmic radiation, and
vacuum conditions and simulated Martian tem-
peratures, atmosphere, and humidity (Baque et
al. 2017; de Vera 2012; De la Torre Noetzel, et
al. 2017; Onofri et al. 2018 Sanchez et al. 2012;
Zakharova et al. 2014). Simulation studies
performed by numerous teams of independent
investigators have demonstrated that prokary-
otes and eukaryotes, including cyanobacteria,
methanogens, fungi and lichens, could survive
and even flourish on Mars, especially if dwell-
ing within rock shelters or beneath the soil and
provided water--for which there is evidence as
reviewed in this report and elsewhere (Joseph
et al. 2020a; Malin & Edgett 1999, 2000; Per-
ron et al. 2007; Renno et al. 2009; Villanueva
et al. 2015).
For example, microcolonial fungi, Cry-
omyces antarcticus, and Knufia perforans ex-
hibited no evidence of stress after long term
exposure to thermo-physical Mars-like condi-
tions (Zakharova et al. 2014) whereas dried
colonies of the Antarctic cryptoendolithic
black fungus Cryomyces antarcticus, suffered
no or minimal damage to DNA and ultrastruc-
ture despite sixteen months exposure to Mars-
like environments (Onofri et al. 2018).
A wide variety of fungi are chemoauto-
trophs and can obtain nourishment via inor-
ganic sources such as ferrous iron which is
abundant on Mars and Eagle Crater (Bell et al.
2004; Klingelhöfer et al. 2004, Squires et al.
2004). These Martian specimens may be able
to feed on radiation, minerals, and sunlight as
reflected by their upward directed orientation.
Martian ground level radiation has
been estimated to equal "0.67 millisieverts per
day" (Hassler et al. 2013) which is profoundly
below the radiation tolerance levels of eukary-
otic fungi which can withstand radiation doses
up to 1.7×104 Gy (Saleh et al. 1988). Even if
radiation levels rise above their tolerance lev-
els, and their DNA damaged, these genes are
rapidly replaced or repaired due to a redun-
dancy of genes with repair functions (White et
al. 1999).
Tugay and colleagues (2006; Zhdanova
et al. 1991, 2004) exposed fungi to pure radia-
tion, gamma irradiation, and mixed beta and
gamma radiation (an electron dose of 300-500
Gy). These investigators found that 60% of
fungal strains were invigorated by radiation
Journal of Astrobiology and Space Science Research
Life on Mars.... Journal of Astrobiology
117
and exhibited positive radiotropism, signifi-
cant growth, and enhanced spoor production.
Fungi, as well as lichens, thrive and are at-
tracted to highly radioactive environments
(Becket et al. 2008; Dadachova et al. 2007;
Tugay et al. 2006; Wember & Zhdanova 2001).
Fungi flourish along the walls of the highly ra-
dioactive Chernobyl nuclear reactor (Dighton
et al. 2008; Zhdanova et al. 2004) and seek
(Wember & Zhdanova 2001; Zhdanova et al.
2004) and grow towards radiation which serve
as a metabolic energy source (Dighton et al.
2008; Tugay et al. 2006). Furthermore, fungi
have infiltrated and can't be eradicated from
the International Space Station (Novikova
2009, Novikova et al. 2016; Vesper 2008) and
specimens resembling fungi (Ksanfomality
2013) and the classic mushroom-shaped fun-
gus, have been identified on Venus (Joseph
2019). These findings "support the possibility
that fungi, in general, may be hyper-extremo-
philes, capable of colonizing Mars, Venus, and
the harshest of alien environments" (Joseph
2019).
Lichens also survive environmental ex-
tremes, lack of water, desiccation, tempera-
tures as low as -196°C (Armstrong 2017;
Becket et al. 2009), as well as high levels of
UV radiation and direct exposure to the radia-
tion intense environment of space and Mars
simulated environments (Sancho, et al. 2007;
Raggio et al. 2011; De la Torre Noetzel et al.
2017). Despite 18 months exposure, lichens re-
mained viable and demonstrated normal meta-
bolic activity.
12. Martian Mushrooms in Eagle Crater. Li-
chenised vs Non-Lichenized Fungi
If the mushroom-like specimens pre-
sented in this report are fungi or composite al-
gae-fungal organisms, can only be determined
via extraction and microscopic examina-
tion. Most of these specimens resemble the li-
chen, Dibaeis baeomyces in morphology,
shape, growth patterns, and size including pos-
sessing stalk/thallus and bulbous apothecia
(Joseph et al. 2019). Dibaeis baeomyces are
similar in a number of respects to these Mar-
tian specimens which appear to depict the
gradual development of ascomata from small
globulars which become stalked structures
capped with a fruiting body (Figures 2,3). Like
their terrestrial counterparts, there appear to be
thallus granules and nodules on the Martian
substrate surface.
Dibaeis baeomyces are well adapted
for life on Mars, and have colonized the most
extreme environments and been found growing
in desert sand, dry clay, on rocks, and in the
arctic (Brodo et al. 2001; Jonsson et al. 2008;
Platt & Spatafora 2000; Ryan et al. 2002; U.S.
Department of the Interior 2010). Because of
their stress-tolerance, slow growth rates, low
demands for water and nutrients, longevity,
and adaptations to stressful conditions, lichens
might easily colonize Mars.
The amount and availability of water
within Eagle Crater is unknown. Lichens can
tolerate long periods of drought and dehydra-
tion, a function, in part, of their slow growth
rate and metabolism (Armstrong and Bradwell
2010). Some species spend considerable time
in a dehydrated state in which there is little
physiological activity and no demand for nutri-
ents (Armstrong 2017, 2019) and survive long
periods without water and in nutrient-poor
habitats.
Extremes in cold temperature would
not be a limiting factor. Lichens flourish on the
Antarctic continent and its adjacent islands
(Llano 1965; Ahmadjian 1970; Longton 1979;
Lindsay 1978; Smith 1984) and despite sub-
zero temperatures for prolonged periods. Dark
and nPS respiration is maintained even at sub-
zero temperatures (Schroeter and Scheidegger
1995).
Hundreds of these Martian mushrooms
form colonies which are selectively oriented
skyward. The orientation of the presumed
fruiting-bodies with respect to light appears to
be behavioral and indicative of phototropism
during fruiting body development.
Many of the specimens presented here
Journal of Astrobiology and Space Science Research
Life on Mars.... Journal of Astrobiology
118
lack an obvious crustose thallus which is a
Dibaeis baeomyces' characteristic (Armstrong,
2019; Armstrong and Bradwell 2010). If these
specimens were produced by a lichen-forming
fungus, then it might be expected that the sym-
biotic lichen thallus would be endolithic and
inside the substrate, and for which there is evi-
dence as depicted in Figures 2-3. These endo-
lithic attachments could be individual as well
as collective fungal hyphae. However, terres-
trial hyphae are usually 2-5 microns in diame-
ter (Armstrong 2017).
If these are lichens, then they may have
adapted and evolved in response to the Martian
environment and its high levels of ground radi-
ation. Hence, the absence of an obvious crus-
tose thallus may be an evolved adaptation. For
example, in response to heightened radiation
exposure--well beyond the "0.67 millisieverts
per day" on Mars (Hassler et al. 2013)—terres-
trial lichens as well as fungi have developed
adaptive features (reviewed by Joseph et al.
2019)--a property described as "radiostimula-
tion," "radiation hormesis," and "adiotropism"
(Levin 2003; Tugay et al. 2006; Zhdanova et al
2004). These radiation-induced adaptations in-
clude tissue and cellular regeneration and new
growth (Basset 1993; Becker 1984; Occhipinti
et al. 2014; Levin 2003; Maffei 2014; Moment,
1949). The varying levels of radiation on Mars
may have contributed to the evolution of
unique features making Martian species dis-
tinct from, albeit remaining similar to terres-
trial organisms.
The specimens presented here could
also be non-lichenised fungi similar to Leotia
lubrica, Cordyceps capitata, Tulostoma
brumale. Given their size and morphology,
they could also represent stalked reproductive
fungal components, such as ascomata or basid-
iomata (complex fruiting-bodies producing
sexual spores) or stilbelloid synnemata (com-
plex conidiophores producing asexual spores).
If these Martian mushrooms are fungi then it
can be assumed they produce these fruiting
bodies to facilitate spore dispersal. However,
as there is no evidence of spore dispersal in
Figure 1-9) and given the flexibility and hol-
low nature of their stems, then it is more likely
they are lichens and engaged in photosynthesis
and contributing to the oxygenation of the
Martian atmosphere and soil.
IV. Conclusions
Edgar, Grotzinger, Hayes, and col-
leagues (2012) have argued that "the strati-
graphic architecture of sedimentary rocks on
Mars is similar (though not identical) to that of
Earth, indicating that the processes that govern
facies deposition and alteration on Mars can be
reasonably inferred through reference to anal-
ogous terrestrial depositional systems." The
same reasoning should apply to biology and
oxygen and argue against the possibility these
Martian mushrooms are abiogenic.
We have provided evidence of over 200
specimens with thin stalks and spherical-caps
which appear to be purple in color, and have a
mushroom-shape and resemble lichens in size
and morphology and jut upward toward the
sky. Thousands of these specimens have been
observed in Eagle Crater (see Methods) and
those similar to these in Gale Crater (Joseph et
al. 2020a). There are no terrestrial abiogenic
processes that can sculpt high density colonies
of mushroom-shapes, attached by thin stalks to
rocks and which form colonies that selectively
orient their bulbous caps skyward in the same
general direction exactly as what might be ex-
pected of photosynthesizing organisms. This
interpretation is supported by the seasonal
fluctuations and dramatic (30%) increases in
Martian atmospheric oxygen during the Spring
and Summer and which parallel seasonal fluc-
tuations in the biological production of oxygen
on Earth. It is reasonable to deduce that photo-
synthesizing organisms on Mars are responsi-
ble for the production and replenishment of ox-
ygen which is an obvious biomarker.
In addition, twenty-three sphere-puff-
ball-shaped specimens were photographed by
the rover Opportunity either increasing in size
or emerging from beneath the soil, over three
Journal of Astrobiology and Space Science Research
Life on Mars.... Journal of Astrobiology
119
days in the absence of any contributing wind
or other abiogenic process. These behavioral
indices (i.e. growth, skyward orientation, flex-
ibility of the stems), coupled with morphology
and oxygen production, are indicative, but not
definitive proof, of biology, the first evidence
of which was detected by the Viking experi-
ments (Levin & Straat 1976, Levin et al. 1978).
These "Martian mushrooms" are uni-
form in appearance and do not resemble and
are smaller and a different color than hematite;
and they were never directly or selectively ex-
amined by any means for evidence of hematite-
-despite misleading claims to the otherwise.
The Eagle Crater environment was not and is
not conducive to producing hematite; there
were significant problems with calibration and
target sensors such that the instrumentation
and methodology employed to detect spectral
signatures that could be interpreted as hematite
were dubious at best; and the claim that any of
the spheres observed in Eagle Crater contain
hematite has been described as "inappropriate"
(Burt et al. 2005; Knauth et al. 2005) and a
"poor fit" when compared to laboratory sam-
ples (Glotch and Bandfield 2006). The spheri-
cal hematite hypothesis is based on speculation
and inference and lacking in any definitive sci-
entific or factual foundation.
It is not probable that these specimens
consist of salt, sand, or other abiogenic sub-
stances. Consider: these mushroom-shaped
specimens look identical to mushrooms and li-
chens, and are attached to rocks by thin stalks,
and top heavy with spherical caps that weigh
some of these specimens so they arch upward
then downward. If abiotic, these thin stems,
top-heavy with skyward orientated bulbous
caps, would have long ago broken apart and
shattered in response to powerful winds, Mars-
quakes, meteor strikes, or, more recently, by
turbulence created by the rover Opportunity.
They did not.
It is important to stress that there is as
yet no definitive proof these are, or were, liv-
ing organisms. However, there are no "analo-
gous terrestrial" processes which can explain
the unique and uniform morphology, size,
color, thin hollow stems, and collective sky-
ward orientation of these mushroom-shaped
specimens, or the seasonal fluctuations and in-
creases and replenishment of Martian oxygen,
other than biology. That these may be living
organisms "can be reasonably inferred through
reference to analogous terrestrial" organisms;
although if they are in fact alive and biological
is unknown. To prove these are living organ-
isms would require additional investigation
and robotic examination, evaluation, extrac-
tion, analyses.
In conclusion, coupled with reports of
seasonal variations and increases in oxygen in
the Martian atmosphere during the spring and
summer, and based on size, color, morphology,
flexibility, and what appears to be indications
of photosynthesis and growth, the evidence
presented in this report does not prove but sup-
ports the hypotheses that mushroom-shaped,
lichen-like organisms may have colonized Ea-
gle Crater and that there may be life on Mars.
Manuscript Received: 12/3/19 - Manuscript Revised: 1/5/20, 1/29/20, 2/15/20
Manuscript Withdrawn by Authors Followed by Revision Received: 4/16/20
Manuscript Revised: 4/18/20 / Accepted for Publication: 4/18/20
Total Referees/Reviewers (for JASSR): 12--eight accepting pending minor revision, 2 accepting pending major revi-
sion, 2 rejecting.
Manuscript Accepted for publication by three Senior Editors (C.H.G., D.D., A.E.).
Compliances with Ethical Standards: The authors have complied with all ethical standards and report no conflicts
of interest, financial or non-financial. There are no funding sources to report. All authors contributed time and effort
to this article.
Acknowledgements: The authors wish to thank Dr. Erita Jones, Dr. Regina Dass, Dr. C. H. Gibson, H. Rabb, and the
anonymous referees for their helpful comments, insight, and suggestions.
Journal of Astrobiology and Space Science Research
Life on Mars.... Journal of Astrobiology
120
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... Although the true color of the landscape, outcrops, sand, dust, dirt, and rocks are unknown, composite false color images were generated by the Opportunity's panoramic camera's nanometer filters (Soderblom et al. 2004). Based on these "color composites" massive amounts of solid blues and greens were painted throughout the lower landscape--and if true colors, these blues and green would not be indicative of hematite, but pools of water and vast fields of chlorophyll-containing living organisms (Joseph et al. 2020b). Hematite is not green or blue. ...
... Each image It is important to stress that the statistical method is based in relative measures and makes no assumptions about the positioning of the camera. Second, there is no evidence of significant wind effects at the site between Sols 1145 and 1148 (Joseph et al. 2020b). Third, there are distinctive features at the edges of the spheres (e.g. ...
... Specifically, as reviewed byJoseph et al,. (2020b) ground level wind speeds between 40 to 70 m/h are required to move coarse grained soil on Mars, and no strong winds, dust clouds, dust devils, or other indications of strong winds were observed, photographed, or reported during those three days in this vicinity of Mars. Hence, there is no evidence these spherical specimens were uncovere ...
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Fungi thrive in radiation intense environments. Sequential photos document that fungus-like Martian specimens emerge from the soil and increase in size, including those resembling puffballs (Basidiomycota). After obliteration of spherical specimens by the rover wheels, new sphericals--some with stalks--appeared atop the crests of old tracks. Sequences document that thousands of black arctic "araneiforms" grow up to 300 meters in the Spring and disappear by Winter; a pattern repeated each Spring and which may represent massive colonies of black fungi, mould, lichens, algae, methanogens and sulfur reducing species. Black fungi-bacteria-like specimens also appeared atop the rovers. In a series of photographs over three days (Sols) white amorphous specimens within a crevice changed shape and location then disappeared. White protoplasmic-mycelium-like-tendrils with fruiting-body-like appendages form networks upon and above the surface; or increase in mass as documented by sequential photographs. Hundreds of dimpled donut-shaped "mushroom-like" formations approximately 1mm in size are adjacent or attached to these mycelium-like complexes. Additional sequences document that white amorphous masses beneath rock-shelters increase in mass, number, or disappear and that similar white-fungus-like specimens appeared inside an open rover compartment. Comparative statistical analysis of a sample of 9 spherical specimens believed to be fungal "puffballs" photographed on Sol 1145 and 12 specimens that emerged from beneath the soil on Sol 1148 confirmed the nine grew significantly closer together as their diameters expanded and some showed evidence of movement. Cluster analysis and a paired sample 't' test indicates a statistically significant size increase in the average size ratio over all comparisons between and within groups (P = 0.011). Statistical comparisons indicates that arctic "araneiforms" significantly increased in length in parallel following an initial growth spurt. Although similarities in morphology are not proof of life, growth, movement, and changes in shape and location constitute behavior and support the hypothesis there is life on Mars.
... That there may be life on Mars was first documented by the Viking Labeled Release Experiments (Levin & Straat 1997; the results of which, after being disputed, were again statistically reaffirmed (Bianciardi et al. 2012) and are now supported by numerous observations of Martian specimens resembling algae, lichens, and fungi on Mars (Dass, 2017;Levin et al. 1978;Joseph 2016;Joseph et al. 2019Joseph et al. , 2020aKrupa 2017;Rabb, 2018;Small 2015); and whichalong with other organisms--may be contributing to the seasonal fluctuations and summer-time increases in atmospheric oxygen and methane Joseph et al. 2020d,e) as respectively reported by Trainer et al. (2019) and Webster and colleagues (2018). Active biology is also indicated by the 23 fungi-like "'puffballs" that increased in size over a three-day period in the absence of any wind that could have somehow removed surrounding soil (Joseph et al. 2020d). ...
... That there may be life on Mars was first documented by the Viking Labeled Release Experiments (Levin & Straat 1997; the results of which, after being disputed, were again statistically reaffirmed (Bianciardi et al. 2012) and are now supported by numerous observations of Martian specimens resembling algae, lichens, and fungi on Mars (Dass, 2017;Levin et al. 1978;Joseph 2016;Joseph et al. 2019Joseph et al. , 2020aKrupa 2017;Rabb, 2018;Small 2015); and whichalong with other organisms--may be contributing to the seasonal fluctuations and summer-time increases in atmospheric oxygen and methane Joseph et al. 2020d,e) as respectively reported by Trainer et al. (2019) and Webster and colleagues (2018). Active biology is also indicated by the 23 fungi-like "'puffballs" that increased in size over a three-day period in the absence of any wind that could have somehow removed surrounding soil (Joseph et al. 2020d). ...
... Moreover, vast colonizes of lichen-mushroom-shaped specimens, with bulbous caps attached to rocks by stems, and collectively oriented skyward similar to photosynthesizing lichens on Earth, have been reported, whereas the possibility these may be "hematite" has been shown to be little more than speculation (Joseph, et al. 2020d). Then there are the specimens that resemble fossilized algae, acritarchs and stromatolites. ...
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Evidence from Mars of what may be algae, thrombolites, microbialites, microbial mats, stromatolites, and ooids is summarized. Also briefly discussed is evidence of chlorophyll, seasonal fluctuations in atmospheric oxygen, and what may be photosynthesis-oxygen gas vents adjacent to specimens resembling algae and lichens. The possible presence of calcium carbonate and calcium oxalate is also summarized the latter of which might be produced by lichens: an algae-fungi symbiotic organism that Joseph et al. (2021) believe are attached to rocks on Mars.
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Negative and positive energy propulsion systems may accelerate starships to light speed and shrink them to smaller than a Planck length, thereby circumventing g-forces and blowing quantum holes in the fabric of space time--holes which may lead to distant planets, stars, or mirror universes on the other side. The construction of a Warp Drive Time Machine Spacecraft Propulsion System is detailed as based on quantum physics and relativity. Because negative energy is repulsive, and positive energy is attractive, particles charged with negative vs positive energy would be repelled and attracted, respectively, at the same time. This push pull scenario, if confined in a circular tubular vacuum between uncharged silver plates would result in positive energy/particles/waves chasing after the negative energy/particles/waves which would be repulsed and accelerate to greater velocities and light speed; and simultaneously time and space-time would contract reducing the distance and “time” to travel between planets, stars, and galaxies, and perhaps opening up “holes” leading to another universe on the other side.
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There is life on Mars as documented with 100 comparative photos. This evidence includes pigmented/melanized fungi and lichens, fungi shedding crustose and secreting calcium oxalate, fungi preparing to spore, spores on the surface sprouting embryonic mushrooms, fungus growing out of the ground, lichens with hollow stalks, vast colonies of lichens attached to rocks and oriented skyward similar to photosynthesizing lichens on Earth, and documentation that the claims of spherical hematite is a hoax--a byproduct of religious extremism at NASA--which is why the hematite claims were immediately rejected as inappropriate and implausible by a number of investigators who proposed instead they are tektites and accretionary lapilli produced by meteor impact and volcano. Be they on the surface or attached to Martian rocks they have no resemblance to terrestrial hematite. The “spheres” of Mars are uniform in shape and size (1mm or 3mm to 6 mm) and all were initially described as “yellow” “orange” “purple” and “blue” the pigmented colors of photosynthesizing organisms. Terrestrial hematite “spheres” are colored red to dark red, consist of less than 2% hematite which form a thin layer on the surface and have a wide variety of sizes and shapes and are infiltrated by fungi and lichens. A review of the Opportunity teams’ methodology and instrumentation reveals that data was contaminated and confounded by numerous uncontrolled variables including problems with instrument calibrations and they relied on inference, speculation, data manipulation, and spectra from panoramic images that were selectively eliminated in a failed attempt to make it conform to laboratory samples. The iron-rich radiation-intense Red Planet provides an ideal environment for fungus and lichens to flourish and promotes growth and sporing and production of melanin which protects against while simultaneously utilizing radiation for metabolic energy. Algae secrete calcium and lichens and fungi produce calcium oxalate that “weathers” and dissolves minerals and metals which are utilized as nutrients and are stored on cellular surfaces. Terrestrial species are iron-rich and precipitate hematite which makes these fungi and lichens ideal bioindicators of metal and minerals; whereas on Mars they are likely supersaturated with these and other minerals and metals as reflected by spectral data. Fungi and lichens secrete calcium oxalate which coats and surrounds mycelium, but upon exposure to dry surface conditions forms waves of calcium “cement” that may cement these organisms to layers of calcium oxalate fossilizing and making them “harder than rock.” Yet others grow out of the ground and are obviously alive. Given evidence documenting biological residue in Martian meteorites, biological activity in soil samples, seasonal increases in methane and oxygen which parallel biological fluctuations on Earth, and pictorial and quantitative morphological evidence of stromatolites fossilized tube worms and metazoans, growth of mushrooms and fungi, and vast colonies of rock-dwelling lichens, it is concluded that the evidence is obvious: There is life on Mars.
Technical Report
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Numerous massive black and complex araneiforms with features categorized as "trees" "rivers" and dendritic radial "spiders" and ranging from a few meters to over 300 meters in size, appear on the surface of the upper northern and lower southern hemispheres of Mars, during the Spring, paralleling the melting of the polar ice-caps which consist of considerable amounts of water-ice capped by varying levels of frozen carbon dioxide. After increasing in length, width, and diameter these huge black formations disappear by late Summer and Winter. The following Spring, similar patterns emerge. Possibly, fungi, mold and immense colonies of dormant surface organisms, when exposed to melt water, flourish and become pigmented upon absorbing sunlight and then become dormant again when surface water evaporates and freezes. It's also been argued these formations are produced by pressurized jets emitted from beneath sublimating surface ice sheets, or the product of mud volcanoes (MVs) and cold geysers (CGs) that erupt from increasingly pressurized subsurface reservoirs. These MVs and CGs are likely brimming with methane, CO2, organic sludge and possibly microbial life, including methanogens and sulfate reducing colonies that (as on Earth) blacken this watery-mixture. Prolonged exposure to the gamma and ultraviolet radiation that bombards the Martian surface would eventually kill these ejected sulfur-reducing organisms which lose their black coloration. Hence: Subsurface life is jetted to the surface as a microbial infested black organic watery sludge which nourishes and in addition to melt water hydrates enormous colonies of dormant surface life that also develop black sunlight-absorbing pigmentation. Arctic surface life is brief, growth patterns rapid, after a few months, when water seeps beneath the surface, evaporates, and freezes, they form spores, migrate beneath the surface, become dormant, or die.
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New images from Mars rover Curiosity display millimetric, elongate stick- like structures in the fluvio-lacustrine deposits of Vera Rubin Ridge, the depositional environment of which has been previously acknowledged as habitable. Morphology, size and topology of the structures are yet incompletely known and their biogenicity remains untested. Here we provide the first quantitative description of the Vera Rubin Ridge structures, showing that ichnofossils, i.e., the product of life-substrate interactions, are among their closest morphological analogues. Crystal growth and sedimentary cracking are plausible non-biological genetic processes for the structures, although crystals, desiccation and syneresis cracks do not typically present all the morphological and topological features of the Vera Rubin Ridge structures. Morphological analogy does not necessarily imply biogenicity but, given that none of the available observations falsifies the ichnofossil hypothesis, Vera Rubin Ridge and its sedimentary features are here recognized as a privileged target for astrobiological research.
Conference Paper
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Enigmatic discoveries made by the Mars Rover Opportunity at the Meridiani Planum landing site are so-called 'blueberries spherules' [1]. They show similarities to terrestrial tektites, and in addition, strong spectral signature of hematite [1]. We assume that the formation mechanism of 'blueberries' is related to dense (rheo)ignimbrite currents, analogous to the formation of Earth's tektites [2]. Taking into account the Сoriolis force on Mars [3], a distal ignimbrite volcano can a cause of 'blueberries'[4]. As well as 'blueberries' on Mars, so-called 'red stones' in the Ries crater are associated with mantle hematites [4]. The double-layer ejecta and distinctions between inner and outer suevites in the Ries crater can be explained by blasts of anisotropic laminated mantlecrust layers beneath SW Germany since the lowermost Moldanubian Ostrong zone comprises [5] ancient ignimbrites (it points to volcanic blasts in the past). Thus, as in the Ries crater, double-layer ejecta of Mars craters are most likely not impactites [4]. [1] DiGregorio, B. (2004) SPIE 5555, 139. [2] German, B. (2019) EPSC-DPS Abstr. #1096. [3] Wrobel, K. & Shultz, P. (2004) JGR 109, E5. [4] German, B. (2019) ISBNs: 97839819526-05(russ.)/-12 (engl.), 164 p. [5] Miyazaki, T. et al. (2016) J. Mineral. Petrol. Sci. 111, 405.
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The Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument onboard the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover measures the chemical composition of major atmospheric species (CO2, N2, ⁴⁰Ar, O2, and CO) through a dedicated atmospheric inlet. We report here measurements of volume mixing ratios in Gale Crater using the SAM quadrupole mass spectrometer, obtained over a period of nearly 5 years (3 Mars years) from landing. The observation period spans the northern summer of MY 31 and solar longitude (LS) of 175° through spring of MY 34, LS = 12°. This work expands upon prior reports of the mixing ratios measured by SAM QMS in the first 105 sols of the mission. The SAM QMS atmospheric measurements were taken periodically, with a cumulative coverage of four or five experiments per season on Mars. Major observations include the seasonal cycle of CO2, N2, and Ar, which lags approximately 20–40° of LS behind the pressure cycle driven by CO2 condensation and sublimation from the winter poles. This seasonal cycle indicates that transport occurs on faster timescales than mixing. The mixing ratio of O2 shows significant seasonal and interannual variability, suggesting an unknown atmospheric or surface process at work. The O2 measurements are compared to several parameters, including dust optical depth and trace CH4 measurements by Curiosity. We derive annual mean volume mixing ratios for the atmosphere in Gale Crater: CO2 = 0.951 (±0.003), N2 = 0.0259 (±0.0006), ⁴⁰Ar = 0.0194 (±0.0004), O2 = 1.61 (±0.09) x 10‐3, and CO = 5.8 (±0.8) x 10‐4.
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BIOMEX (BIOlogy and Mars EXperiment) is an ESA/Roscosmos space exposure experiment housed within the exposure facility EXPOSE-R2 outside the Zvezda module on the International Space Station (ISS). The design of the multiuser facility supports—among others—the BIOMEX investigations into the stability and level of degradation of space-exposed biosignatures such as pigments, secondary metabolites, and cell surfaces in contact with a terrestrial and Mars analog mineral environment. In parallel, analysis on the viability of the investigated organisms has provided relevant data for evaluation of the habitability of Mars, for the limits of life, and for the likelihood of an interplanetary transfer of life (theory of lithopanspermia). In this project, lichens, archaea, bacteria, cyanobacteria, snow/permafrost algae, meristematic black fungi, and bryophytes from alpine and polar habitats were embedded, grown, and cultured on a mixture of martian and lunar regolith analogs or other terrestrial minerals. The organisms and regolith analogs and terrestrial mineral mixtures were then exposed to space and to simulated Mars-like conditions by way of the EXPOSE-R2 facility. In this special issue, we present the first set of data obtained in reference to our investigation into the habitability of Mars and limits of life. This project was initiated and implemented by the BIOMEX group, an international and interdisciplinary consortium of 30 institutes in 12 countries on 3 continents. Preflight tests for sample selection, results from ground-based simulation experiments, and the space experiments themselves are presented and include a complete overview of the scientific processes required for this space experiment and postflight analysis. The presented BIOMEX concept could be scaled up to future exposure experiments on the Moon and will serve as a pretest in low Earth orbit.