It is reputed that the discipline of astrobiology was a purely academic pursuit until, in a moment of insight inspired by a Martian meteorite, President Clinton undertook to fund the search for life in the universe. This initiative has thrived to become the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) based at Ames, California. The first director, Nobel Laureate Dr Baruch Blumberg, was appointed in 1999. A Russian Astrobiology Centre has been established at St Petersburg, with parallel initiatives in Spain, Japan and Australia. The European Exo/Astrobiology Network Association (EANA), co-ordinated from Paris, held its inaugural meeting in 1999.

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