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In a new round of funding announced on Monday, NASA is allocating $50 million to 7 research groups in the US to tackle these questions.

The grants will cover 5 years of study and will average $8 million per research group…

The astrobiology teams are based at 3 NASA institutions (Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., Goddard Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. and Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.), 3 universities (University of Colorado at Boulder, University of California, Riverside and the University of Montana in Missoula) and at The (SETI) at Mountain View, Calif…

“The intellectual scope of astrobiology is vast, from understanding how our planet went from lifeless to living, to understanding how life has adapted to Earth’s harshest environments, to exploring other worlds with the most advanced technologies to search for signs of life,” said Mary Voytek, director, astrobiology program, NASA Headquarters. “The new teams cover that breadth of astrobiology, and by coming together in the (), they will make the connections between disciplines and organizations that stimulate fundamental scientific advances.”

These 7 new teams join 5 existing NAI teams at the University of Washington in Seattle; Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge; the University of Wisconsin, Madison; the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; and University of Southern California, Los Angeles.