JPL Gets $8 Million Grant to Look for Life on Saturn’s Moon

Published : Monday, May 14, 2018 | 5:24 PM

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has received a five-year grant of approximately $8 million to continue research on possible life on Titan, Saturn’s largest moon.

JPL’s research team will be led by Dr. Rosaly Lopes, Manager for Planetary Science and currently a member of the Cassini Flight Project. Her team will address what habitable environments may exist on Titan and what potential signatures of life would be expected, using data from the Cassini-Huygens mission.

Lopes’ team is one of three research teams NASA selected to receive the grants for studying the origins, evolution, distribution and future of life in the universe.

“These research teams will provide the critical interdisciplinary expertise needed to help interpret data from these missions and future astrobiology-focused missions,” NASA Chief Scientist Jim Green said in announcing the awards.

The interdisciplinary teams will become members of the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI), headquartered at the agency’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, California.

The other two teams selected are ENIGMA (Evolution of Nanomachines in Geospheres and Microbial Ancestors at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey; and ACIR (The Astrobiology Center for Isotopologue Research at Pennsylvania State University in University Park.

“The intellectual scope of astrobiology is vast, from understanding how our planet became habitable and inhabited, 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 of the Astrobiology Program at NASA Headquarters. “The new teams will complement our existing teams to cover breadth of astrobiology, and by coming together in the NAI, they will make the connections between disciplines and organizations that stimulate fundamental scientific advances.”

The NASA Astrobiology Program seeks the answers to these fundamental questions: How does life begin and evolve? Is there life beyond Earth and, if so, how can we detect it? What is the future of life on Earth and beyond?

For more information on the NASA Astrobiology Institute, visit www.nai.nasa.gov.

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