NASA's Astrobiology Program, which has been exploring the future of life in the universe since 1959, just got bigger. In attempt to further its continuing studies, NASA has awarded grants totaling $70 million for university research over the next five years. Their focus is on detecting signs of extraterrestrial life, on determining and creating the conditions necessary for life, and investigating the origins of life.That should be more than enough to keep scientists occupied at grantees the University of Hawaii, Arizona State University, the Carnegie Institution of Washington, Pennsylvania State University, the Georgia Institute of Technology, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, NASA Ames Research Center, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, and NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. NASA has lofty hopes for this multidisciplinary exploration:
“The new teams provide a superb foundation for the institute as it enters its second decade,” said Jim Green, Planetary Science Division director at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “They bring together the many disciplines necessary for a comprehensive interdisciplinary approach to studying life in the universe.”
The findings of the various teams — for example, Penn State's development of detectable "signatures of life" on other planets — should also have a huge impact on future space exploration missions. NASA Selects New Science Teams for Astrobiology Institute [NASA Astrobiology] Image from NASA Astrobiology.