MADISON — Baruch S. Blumberg, the first-ever director of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Astrobiology Institute, told The Scientist yesterday that he would be stepping down in five months. Blumberg, who has held the post since 1999, said he will remain at NASA until the agency appoints a new director.

Under Blumberg's tenure, the Institute — which focuses on how life interacts with planets and other objects in the solar system — grew from nothing at its founding in 1998 to a $20 million-a-year organization with 15 research teams spread out between NASA centers, universities, and research institutes. Based at NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, California, the Institute, among other ongoing studies, has investigated whether life exists elsewhere in the Universe.

Blumberg, who serves on the editorial advisory board of The Scientist, declined to say why he was leaving the position, but said he...

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