Us, humans, are so desperate in hoping that we are not alone in the Universe. That somewhere, sometime there is, or at least was, something out there that resembles us. Someone that thinks, breaths, and shares our DNA. Or, at least, our RNA. Mars might have been such a place.
The biggest dreamers of us all are the scientist. They don’t just dream, and they can make studies, remodel geochemical conditions like the one Mars might have had 4 billion years ago, and believe that the conditions there may have once been hospitable to RNA. So, what if they need to assume much more that they know? They must understand first.
To get to the conclusion that Mars might have been an RNA world, researchers need to assume that Mar was once soggy. So, soggy it was.
Ribonucleic acid (RNA) is a polymeric molecule essential in various biological roles in coding, decoding, regulation, and expression of genes. RNA and DNA are nucleic acids and, along with lipids, proteins and carbohydrates, constitute the four major macromolecules essential for all known forms of life.
Mars might have housed accumulations of RNA polymers
The RNA is a hypothetical stage in the evolutionary history of life on Earth, in which self-replicating RNA molecules proliferated before the evolution of DNA and proteins. Alternative chemical paths to life have been proposed, and RNA-based life may not have been the first life to exist. Even so, the evidence for an RNA world is strong enough that the hypothesis has gained wide acceptance.
So, what if the RNA world isn’t sure to be the case with life here on Earth? Maybe the red planet will help us determine the truth here on Earth.
RNA becomes steady in waters with a high concentration of magnesium ions, due to the acidity. Martian dirt is rich in iron, magnesium, and manganese. So, if Mars once hosted water, it means that Martian volcanic basalts were at least hospitable with RNA. And that would be restricted.
“Future work is required to further constrain the composition of theoretical Mars waters with respect to mechanisms that may have accumulated metals to prebiotically relevant concentrations,” say the researchers in their paper. Someday, somehow, we’ll know.