To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, I will watch and review a science fiction space film from the last decade each day this week: 

Gravity, Moon, The MartianEuropa ReportInterstellar, & Apollo 18
SPECIAL FEATURE: Apollo 11

Release date: June 27, 2013
Rated: PG-13

All these worlds are yours except Europa.
Attempt no landing there.

These words from 2001: A Space Odyssey were the first thing I thought of, and still think of, when I hear the title Europa Report. I can’t remember why I picked up the movie; I don’t think it came as a recommendation, just random chance. But I do recall that it was the first film I’d ever seen done in the “archival footage” style. A kind of fictional documentary built from personal logs, exterior video, and helmet cams to create a compelling, if somewhat fragmented, narrative. But the fragmentation is part of what makes Europa Report so interesting… and chilling.

At some point in the relatively near future, perhaps just a little ways past the technology needed to make The Martian a reality, a manned mission is sent to Jupiter, specifically to one of its moons: the ice-covered Europa. Carbon-based life flourishes where there is water, and beneath the think crust of Europa is a vast ocean, a possible harbor for life beyond Earth, but still within our solar system. The crew of the Europa One are tasked with finding out if any life does exist on Europa. They end up discovering far more than what they’d bargained for.

Europa Report is based on theoreticals, since no human has ever traveled past the Moon. As of right now, the most we can hope for is to send robotic probes to the outer gas giants; we lack the infrastructure (and political/socio-economic will) to build an interstellar craft capable of supporting humans for such a long duration in space. (The radiation alone is a massive problem that is sort of skirted past in the movie.) That said, I think Europa Report presents a compelling look at what a mission to the moons of Jupiter could look like. Aside from the occasional musical score, the documentary-style construction keeps you guessing and invested throughout the film. It also leads you along with a certain expectation, only to pull the rug out from under you at the last moment.

With the resounding success of the Cassini-Huygens mission to survey Jupiter and Saturn, I hope that there will be renewed interest in further exploration of these moons for signs of life. Who knows? Maybe one day a mission like Europa One will become a reality. I hope so. Although perhaps it might be wiser to choose a different moon to land on. One defies the Monolith at their own peril.

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“Space Week” is a Film Review Series celebrating #Apollo50 and focuses on movies from the last decade set in space.