I jumped at the chance to see a special screening of the new indy thriller, not just because it sounded intriguing, but because it came with the opportunity to talk once again with the Jet Propulsion Lab’s Kevin Hand. Kevin is JPL’s Deputy Chief Scientist for Solar System Exploration. He also knows as much as anyone about the growing evidence for water oceans elsewhere in our solar system. He’d dearly love to send a mission to Europa that would investigate the moon’s sub-ice sea.
Kevin and his colleague Steve Vance were brought in as science advisors almost from the beginning of the film’s production. Their guidance can be seen throughout, and not just in its scientific and technological accuracy. The heroic men and women at the center of the story behave like genuine scientists and engineers who’ve been given the chance of a lifetime.
Okay, okay. No one is going to send a human mission to Europa without extensive robotic exploration first. But, as Kevin told me, and with apologies to WALL-e and R2D2, not many audiences would pay to see a story about an intrepid robot in peril. So suspend that disbelief and enjoy the ride.
“Europa Report” director Sebastian Cordero and producer Ben Browning are also heard in this week’s PlanRad. Emily Lakdawalla reports on the Pluto science conference she just attended, while Bill Nye assures us that the Planetary Society will keep fighting to protect missions like the 2020 Mars rover, and to expand NASA’s planetary science budget so that much more exploration is supported. Bruce Betts and I challenge you to enter the What’s Up space trivia contest! That alluring Planetary Radio t-shirt prize may be just a click or two away.