"With Mars 2020 on the horizon, these research teams will provide the critical interdisciplinary expertise to help interpret data from future astrobiology-focused missions," said Jim Green, director of planetary science division at NASA headquarters in Washington, DC.

The teams are: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Centre, Greenbelt, Maryland; NASA's Ames Research Centre, Moffett Field, California; NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California; The SETI Institute in Mountain View, California; University of Colorado in Boulder; University of California, Riverside; and University of Montana in Missoula.

Average funding for each team will be approximately USD 8 million, the US space agency said in a statement.

"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 and search for signs of life on other planets," added Mary Voytek, director of astrobiology programme ay NASA.

The new teams will make the connections between disciplines and organizations that stimulate fundamental scientific advances.

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