How to Sell Europa:


Thanks to the ominous warning in Arthur C. Clarke’s novel, 2010: Odyssey Two, much of the science and technical community shares Culberson’s fascination with Europa. But for the general public, the icy moon remains largely an unknown. Eight billion dollars to peck at the ice on some moon around Jupiter? What is the sense of that? As he works on his peers in Congress, Culberson will eventually have to convince Joe the Plumber, Ken Bone, and the rest of America about the relevance of Europa, too.

For this mission, he has a secret weapon. During the briefings at JPL, Culberson brought a friend with him, the famed Director James Cameron. The two men share an interest in exploring the depths of oceans, and periodically Cameron peppered the JPL presenters with questions about batteries, the chemistry of Europa’s ocean, and so forth. But mostly, he came as Europa’s storyteller-in-chief. “If you want to talk to the world, this man knows how to do it,” Culberson said of his friend. It’s true in some sense. Titanic and Avatar are the two highest-grossing movies of all time.

At one point during the presentation, Hand displayed the cover of the report written by the lander team, which depicts the spacecraft at rest on Europa with Jupiter rising lustrously above the horizon. It recalled the iconic Apollo 8 image of Earth rising above the Moon, which helped sell the lunar landing program to the American public. “You need to do that picture,” Cameron interjected. “It should be a given. You want that picture, about 30 degrees above the horizon. It’s mandatory.”

Hand noted that since Europa is tidally locked to Jupiter, only half of the moon ever sees the gas giant. You really wouldn’t want to constrain your landing site just for a photograph, he explained.

“It had better be a damn interesting landing site,” Cameron retorted. After this exchange, the group of scientists and engineers inside Left Field laughed. During that moment, Cameron turned to whisper to Culberson. “Nobody ever likes to hear that stuff,” the director said. “But it’s what sells this kind of program.”

From the congressman’s nod back to his friend, it seemed pretty clear that the most important person in the world when it comes to exploring Europa had heard Cameron’s message. Loud and clear.

Some of the most interesting comments/exchanges in the article.

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