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John Bluck                                                                                                                                      June 24, 2003

NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

Phone: 650/604-5026 or 604-9000


Donald Savage

Headquarters, Washington                

Phone: 202/358-1547

RELEASE: 03-47AR                  


NASA today announced 12 new teams would join the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI), a national and international research consortium that studies the origin, evolution, distribution and future of life on Earth and in the universe.

The institutional awards begin in fall 2003, when current agreements with the NAI's 11 founding lead teams conclude. NAI team awards are for five years, with annual reviews, at an average annual funding level of $1 million. Funding supports interdisciplinary research in conjunction with professional, educational and public outreach activities, coordinated through NAI's offices at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

"The NAI successfully reached an important milestone today with the competition for the original NAI membership," said Dr. Edward Weiler, NASA's associate administrator of space science. "The quality of the proposals and stiff competition demonstrated the scientific community's enthusiasm for the Astrobiology Institute."

"This is an ongoing experiment in collaboration across disciplines and distance," said Dr. Michael Meyer, astrobiology senior scientist at NASA Headquarters, Washington.

The 12 newly selected teams, of which six are founding members, join four NAI lead teams selected in 2001. "With this group of 16 teams, NAI's efforts reach from the Earth's deep subsurface to the stars," said Dr. Rosalind Grymes, acting director of the NAI at NASA Ames. "We look to the near-term future of solar system exploration as well as to the distant past of planet Earth," she said.

The new team lead institutions, principal investigators and the titles of their proposed research are:

  • Carnegie Institution of Washington: Dr. Sean Solomon, "Astrobiological Pathways: From the Interstellar Medium, Through Planetary Systems, to the Emergence and Detection of Life"

  • Indiana University, Bloomington, Ind.: Prof. Lisa Pratt, "Indiana-Princeton-Tennessee Astrobiology Institute: Detection of Biosustainable Energy and Nutrient Cycling in the Deep Subsurface of Earth and Mars"

  • Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, Mass.: Dr. Mitchell Sogin, "From Early Biospheric Metabolisms to the Evolution of Complex Systems"

  • SETI Institute, Mountain View, Calif.: Prof. Christopher Chyba, "Planetary Biology, Evolution and Intelligence"

  • NASA Ames Research Center: Dr. David DesMarais, "Linking Our Origins to Our Future"

  • NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.: Dr. Michael Mumma, "Origin and Evolution of Organics in Planetary Systems"

  • Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pa.: Prof. Hiroshi Ohmoto, "Evolution of a Habitable Planet"

  • University of Arizona, Tucson: Prof. Neville Woolf, "An Astronomical Search for the Essential Ingredients for Life: Placing our Habitable System in Context"

  • University of California at Los Angeles: Prof. Edward Young, "From Stars to Genes: An Integrated Study of the Prospects for Life in the Cosmos"

  • University of California at Berkeley: Prof. Jillian Banfield, "BIOspheres of Mars: Ancient and Recent Studies"

  • University of Colorado, Boulder, Colo.: Prof. Bruce Jakosky, "University of Colorado Center for Astrobiology"

  • University of Hawaii, Manoa: Prof. Karen Meech, "The Origin, History, and Distribution of Water and its Relation to Life in the Universe"

The NAI, founded in 1997, is a partnership between NASA, 16 major U.S. teams and five international consortia. NAI's goal is to promote, conduct, and lead integrated multidisciplinary astrobiology research and to train a new generation of astrobiology researchers. For more information about the NAI on the Internet, visit:



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