2001 gets all the praise and retrospectives and spots on the “Best Movies of All Time” lists, but I’ve always had a soft spot for the 1984 sequel 2010, directed by Peter Hyams. I love Roy Scheider’s performance as Dr. Heywood Floyd. I love the pervasive sense of wonder, from the something mysterious lurking in a crater on the surface of Europa to the ghostly Dave Bowman’s cryptic promises that “something wonderful” was going to happen. And, almost more than all the rest of it, I love that ending. The monolith – scratch that, monoliths — collapse Jupiter into a new star and we get that closing shot of a single monolith standing vigil over a newly tropical Europa, starting the whole process of life all over again. It seems, however, that the folks at NASA are not fans of 2010, because they are going against the stern warnings of the monolith aliens and planning a landing on Jupiter’s moon of Europa.
According to Space, NASA plans to send two robotic landers to explore the surface of Europa, which is considered to be one of the most likely locations for discovering extraterrestrial life within our solar system. The mission is being developed by scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, and would be targeted to launch in 2020. The mission will investigate whether life exists, or could ever have existed, on the moon. One of the primary exploration targets will be Europa’s liquid-water ocean beneath the moon’s sheets of ice.
As JPL’s Kevin Hand puts it:
Europa, I think, is the premiere place to go for extant life. Europa really does give us this opportunity to look for living life in the ocean that is there today, and has been there for much of the history of the solar system.”
And now, just in case anybody from NASA is reading this, the closing words of 2010:
All these worlds are yours, except Europa. Attempt no landing there. Use them together. Use them in peace.