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Achillis Pons (818) 555-1212
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA

Neith Regio (202) 555-1212
NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC

RELEASE 2005-050

May 5, 2005

NASA PROPOSES TO SEND "ENVOYS" TO SEARCH FOR SOLAR SYSTEM LIFE

Responding to the tantalizing, but scientifically inconclusive, discovery last year of what appear to be microfossils in the shallow subsurface of Mars, NASA today announced a proposal to search for and characterize evidence of life both ancient and present-day within the Solar System.

Dubbed Project Envoy, the program would focus NASA's broad-ranging expertise on answering the question "Are we alone?"

Project Envoy's initial focus would be concentrated on Mars, in a series of missions called Redlake, in recognition of the vast oceans once thought to have existed on the planet. The first of the Redlake missions would revisit the hematite-laden Meridiani Planum region, the site of the discoveries made last year by the Mars Exploration Rover "Cousteau." Other Project Envoy mission targets include the Saturn moons Titan and Enceladus, the Jupiter moons Europa and Io, and Venus.

NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe presented the proposal today in testimony before the U.S. House Science Committee in hearings on the NASA space science program. The proposal must also survive hearings before Congressional budget and finance committees before it becomes a reality.

"We believe that there is a high level of interest among the general public in answering this central human question (of whether life ever arose elsewhere)." O'Keefe stated. When asked if Project Envoy may eventually lead to sending astronauts to locations where life exists or once arose, he responded that the issue would be addressed at a later date based on Project Envoy's results.

Project Envoy will be managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology for NASA's Office of Space Science.

Information about Project Envoy and Redlake is available at http://envoy.jpl.nasa.gov.

For more information about NASA on the Internet, visit http://www.nasa.gov.

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