The origin of life as a planetary phenomenon

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Science Advances  05 Feb 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 6, eaax3419
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aax3419


We advocate an integrative approach between laboratory experiments in prebiotic chemistry and geologic, geochemical, and astrophysical observations to help assemble a robust chemical pathway to life that can be reproduced in the laboratory. The cyanosulfidic chemistry scenario described here was developed by such an integrative iterative process. We discuss how it maps onto evolving planetary surface environments on early Earth and Mars and the value of comparative planetary evolution. The results indicate that Mars can offer direct evidence for geochemical conditions similar to prebiotic Earth, whose early record has been erased. The Jezero crater is now the chosen landing site for NASA’s Mars 2020 rover, making this an extraordinary opportunity for a breakthrough in understanding life’s origins.

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