TEMPE, Ariz. Humans have long pondered the possibility that life exists beyond Earth. The quest for habitable worlds has focused on searching for water, but "following the water" turns out to be too general a criterion. The list of planets and satellites that possess liquid water is growing faster than can be explored. As one of the new NASA Astrobiology Institute teams, Arizona State University researchers intend to boost extraterrestrial exploration to the next stage by refining the criteria that guide the search for life.
The multidisciplinary field of astrobiology explores the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life on Earth and in the universe. The need for experts in areas as diverse as Earth and planetary science, astrophysics, microbiology, cosmochemistry, and evolutionary biology, gave rise to the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI). Established as part of NASA's Astrobiology Program, the NAI developed as a partnership between NASA and teams located at academic institutions, research laboratories, and NASA centers across the U.S. More than 700 scientists and educators are associated with the NAI.
NASA announced Oct. 2 that ASU's School of Earth and Space Exploration is one of 10 research teams from across the country to be awarded five-year grants, averaging $7 million each. ASU previously operated as an NAI team and was a charter member of the NAI when the program was founded in 1998. The team is centered in the School of Earth and Space Exploration, an academic unit in ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, but also involves several faculty members from other college units including the School of Life Sciences, the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the Beyond Center.
The ASU team, under the direction of principal investigator Ariel Anbar, a professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration and the department of chemistry and biochemistry, attributes much of its recent success to the origi
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Arizona State University