Nautilus

Uncovering the Spark of Life

This summer, NASA’s Perseverance rover will set out on a voyage to the edge of the Jezero crater on Mars. The goal of the mission is to learn more about our neighboring planet, and to collect core samples that will one day return to Earth. The hope is that by studying the ancient carbonate rocks that line the northern edge of the crater, we might glean signs of life. Anything we find there, even fossilized remnants of a more verdant past, may offer priceless clues about the initial spark of life on our own planet.

Mars is big, and each costly mission can only cover so much ground—so some guiding principles are necessary to narrow the search. Even if we assume life on Earth and Mars arose independently, we can look to the most ancient forms of life on Earth for clues about where and what to look for on the red planet. So far, the favored approach has been to focus on a common behavior of all known life forms: the ability to harvest energy from the environment. What has emerged from the study of diverse metabolic systems is that the myriad tactics by which cells accomplish this feat all boil down to a shared strategy. In a word: electricity.

Citiți o mostră, înregistrați-vă pentru a citi în continuare.

Mai multe de la Nautilus

Nautilus8 min cititePsychology
Your Romantic Ideals Don’t Predict Who Your Future Partner Will Be: Why birds of a feather don’t flock together for long.
Last year, I briefly ran an analogue dating service. I’ll never know what inspired me to start it—maybe my stable relationship had me missing the excitement of single life—but I loved the simplicity of it. There were no questionnaires, no algorithms,
Nautilus8 min citite
How Life Could Continue to Evolve: On the origin of an interstellar species.
Once upon a time there was a molecule. That molecule, when it reacted with other molecules, set in motion a story that would result in the universe making another molecule almost exactly like that first one. Then that new molecule, when it reacted wi
Nautilus5 min citite
The Hard Problem of Breakfast: How does it emerge from bacon and eggs?
Over the past century, scientists have unlocked many of the most profound secrets of bacon, eggs, oatmeal, and avocado toast, advancing our understanding of the day’s most important meal and ushering in a golden age of innovation.1 Yet there remains