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Nasa scientists previewed several missions in the search for life off Earth on Tuesday, including a plan to scoop up minerals from an asteroid and one to drill into the surface of Mars.

The missions described by researchers included satellites, spacecraft, landers and work concentrated on Mars, Jupiter moons, an asteroid and on Earth itself.

“Sciences are being unified by the search for life in the universe,” said Dr John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for science at Nasa, before conceding that “life outside of earth is probably going to be really hard to find”.

“We can’t even agree on a definition of what life detection is.”

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