WASHINGTON — Scientists in a lab used a powerful laser to re-create what might have been the original spark of life on Earth.

Researchers zapped clay and a chemical soup with the laser to simulate the energy of a speeding asteroid smashing into the planet. They ended up creating what can be considered crucial pieces of the building blocks of life.

The experiment produced all four chemical bases needed to make RNA, a simpler relative of DNA, the blueprint of life. From these bases, there are many still-mysterious steps that must happen for life to emerge. But this is a potential starting point in that process.

Some scientists were unimpressed by the results, which do not actually prove that this is how life started on Earth about 4 billion years ago, a time when asteroids were bombarding our planet 10 times more frequently than before or after. But the experiment bolsters this particular theory.

“These findings suggest that the emergence of terrestrial life is not the result of an accident but a direct consequence of the conditions on the primordial Earth and its surroundings,” the researchers concluded in the study published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Scientists have been able to make these RNA bases other ways, using chemical mixes and pressure, but this is the first experiment to test the theory that the energy from a space crash could trigger the crucial chemical reaction, said lead author Svatopluk Civis of the Heyrovsky Institute of Physical Chemistry in Prague.

Civis said the scientists used a laser almost 500 feet long that for a fraction of a second zapped the chemical soup. The power was so intense and concentrated that for less than a billionth of a second, it was equivalent to the output of a couple of nuclear power plants, he said.