On Earth, wherever you look, life surrounds us. But is this life somewhere else in the universe? We all know that the source of life on our planet is a huge amount of chemicals. But what conditions are needed in order to kindle this very life in the sense in which we represent it (or do not represent it)? And, equally important, if we discover extraterrestrial life, how do we recognize it?
On Monday, NASA announced a new funding phase, which involves the allocation of $ 50 million for seven astrobiological research groups, which will have to find answers to the above questions.
The amount of grants, calculated for 5 years, will average $ 8 million for each of the research groups.
“With the help of the Curiosity rover, which determines the habitability of Mars, as well as the Kepler detection system, which explores the planets outside our solar system, and the Mars 2020 rover, these research teams will provide essential interdisciplinary expertise, which will help to decipher the information collected during current as well as future astrobiological expeditions, ”says Jim Green, head of the planetary research department at NASA headquarters in Washington. The research teams will be based on three NASA research institutes (Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, Goddard Space Center, Greenbelt, Maryland, and Ames Research California), three universities (University of California, Boulder, University of California and Montana), and will also become participants of the SETI project (project of search for extraterrestrial civilizations).
Multidisciplinary teams will explore everything from the environment on Earth and use it as a counterpart for extraterrestrial locations, to determine those chemical elements that came to Earth thanks to a comet or an asteroid. The purpose of the expedition using the rover “Mars 2020” is to understand how to look for and, including, identify life on the red planet. The project will study extremophiles (organisms adapted to life in conditions of extreme temperatures, pressure, etc.), as well as how oxygen appeared on our planet.
“The field of astrobiology is unlimited - from understanding how our planet has evolved from a non-living to a living, to understanding how this life has adapted to the harshest environment, as well as exploring other worlds with modern technologies to search for signs of life,” says Mary Wojtek , head of NASA astrobiological research. “The new teams will cover all of this area of astrobiology, so that later, on the basis of the NASA Astrobiological Institute, to draw a parallel between those disciplines and organizations that contribute to scientific progress.” These seven new teams join the 5 existing ones that are based on the University of Washington, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Wisconsin, Illinois and the Southern California University.