Phosphate May Have Been More Abundant On Ancient Mars Than It Is On Earth

One of the key chemical ingredients scientists believe to be required for life is phosphate. Phosphate is plentiful here on Earth, but scientists now believe that phosphate could've been more abundant on ancient Mars that it is on earth today. Phosphate is believed to be a required component for life because it is the backbone of DNA and an essential part of molecules that cells use to generate energy and their required membranes.

Scientists say that Mars is very rich in phosphate in the area of 5 to 10 times richer than Earth based on the analysis of meteorites from Mars that have impacted the surface of the Earth. That data was also supported by scans of Mars by NASA Spirit and Opportunity rovers.

NASA does point out that the presence of phosphate on Mars does not mean it was available for use in chemical reactions that could support life. Scientists say that minerals containing phosphate here on Earth are known to dissolve very slowly in water.

The scientists conducted experiments to determine how phosphate-loaded minerals that are thought to be the most common on Mars would dissolve across a range of acidity levels. The scientists learned during the experiments that the dominant phosphate-loaded minerals available on Mars are significantly more soluble and release more phosphate in the water and those common on Earth. Those findings suggest phosphate is released as much as 45 times faster between water and rock on Mars than on Earth.