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Dwayne Brown 202-358-1726
Michael Mewhinney 650-604-3937
NEWS RELEASE: 2008-184 Oct. 2, 2008
NASA Selects Science Teams for Astrobiology Institute
PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA has awarded five-year grants, averaging $7 million each, to 10 research teams from across the country, including two from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, to study the origins, evolution, distribution and future of life in the universe.
The interdisciplinary teams will become new members of the NASA Astrobiology Institute, located at NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif. Teams from the University of Hawaii in Honolulu; Arizona State University in Tempe; the Carnegie Institution of Washington; Pennsylvania State University in University Park, Pa.; the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta; and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., have been selected as members. Teams from
"The research of these new teams reflects the increasing maturity of astrobiology," said NASA Astrobiology Institute Director Carl Pilcher of
The first of two JPL teams will be devoted to an interdisciplinary investigation of chemistry on Saturn's moon Titan. The team will focus on Titan's physical environment to provide a basis for understanding the chemistry of early Earth, which was the precursor for life. The second JPL team will investigate the habitability of icy worlds, such as Saturn's moons Titan and Enceladus, and Jupiter's moon Europa. They also will investigate how life could be detected in such environments and begin to define related instrumentation for future missions.
Carnegie Institution of Washington will conduct a wide range of research. They will focus on life's chemical and physical evolution, from the interstellar medium, through planetary systems, to the emergence and detection of life.
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute will conduct a multifaceted, highly integrated, program of interdisciplinary research on setting the stage for life. This will focus on the origins of relevant molecules and habitable environments, and on the processes by which chemical evolution leads to life.
The Georgia Institute of Technology will pursue the scientific goal of rewinding the tape of life to before the last universal common ancestor of all living organisms. This could shed light on the nature of protein synthesis by the earliest living systems.
"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
The new members join four continuing teams led by
For more information about the NASA Astrobiology Institute, its new teams, and NASA's astrobiology program, visit http://astrobiology.nasa.gov .
JPL is managed for NASA by the California Institute of Technology in