NASA dedicates $50mln to study of life in universe

NASA has dedicated a fund of $50 million to the study of life in universe. University of Montana (UM) on Tuesday said it will share in a USD 50 million grant from NASA along with the Goddard Space Flight Center and some research school

UM President Royce Engstrom said that the university was one of seven institutions across the country selected by the world‘s premier space agency to research the origin, evolution and distribution of life in the universe.

“NASA picked only seven teams from around the entire country to carry out this astrobiology research,” Engstrom said. “Our researchers will look at how life evolved from the simplest molecules to the wonderfully complex systems we call cells and organisms and ecosystems.”

Engstrom made the announcement before hundreds of local high school students and gave credit to Frank Rosenzweig, a UM professor who specializes in evolutionary genetics.

“Dr Rosenzweig and his team of students and researchers are in some pretty good company,” Engstrom said. “This is about as big a frontier as you can think about – the entire universe.”

No details over funding are still available but NASA said each research team will receive an average of USD 8 million. The list of recipients includes the universities of Montana, California and Colorado, along with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

The Ames Research Center, the Goddard Space Flight Center and the SETI Institute were also named as recipients. SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, may include another UM researcher.

The grant to be given by NASA is aimed at researching life in the universe, from the origins of water on our planet to the livability of distant, icy worlds.

“The intellectual scope of astrobiology is vast,” said Mary Voytek, director of the astrobiology program at NASA headquarters. “The new teams cover the breadth of astrobiology, and by coming together they will make the connections between disciplines and organizations that stimulate fundamental scientific advances.”


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