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(BBC)-Scientists studying the tiny grains of material recovered from Comet Wild-2 by Nasa's Stardust mission have found large, complex carbon-rich molecules.
They are of the type that could have been important precursor components of the initial reactions that gave rise to the planet's biochemistry.
"Whatever it took to get life started, the more variety of molecules you had in the mix and the more they looked like the kinds of molecules that life uses now then the easier it should have been," Dr Scott Sandford from Nasa's Ames Research Center told BBC News.
Dr Sandford led the organics investigation; some 55 researchers in more than 30 institutions. His team sees many delicate, volatile compounds that are quite unlike those familiar in meteorites that have fallen to Earth.
"That's of interest because we know that in laboratory simulations where we irradiate ice analogues of types we know are out there, these same experiments produce a lot of organic compounds, including amino acids and a class of compounds called amphiphiles which if you put them in water will spontaneously form a membrane so that they make little cellular-like structures."
No-one knows how life originated on the cooling early Earth, but it has become a popular theory that a bombardment of comets may have deposited important chemical units for the initiating reactions.