Sci-Fi Film 'Europa Report' Melds Space Fantasy and Fact
An astronaut works outside a spacecraft cockpit in this still from the 2013 science fiction film ‘Europa Report.’
Credit: Wayfare Entertainment

NEW YORK — The minds behind the movie "Europa Report" allowed reality to shape the fictional world they created.

Everything from real NASA science to the commercial space industry played a role in the script and making of the film, released in theaters today (Aug. 2), but "Europa Report" was initially much smaller in scope.

(L to R) Screenwriter Philip Gelatt, director Sebastian Cordero, actress Karolina Wydra, panel moderator Dave Mosher, composer Bear McCreary and producer Ben Browning participate in a panel discussion during the New York premiere of "Europa Report." Image released on Aug. 1, 2013.
(L to R) Screenwriter Philip Gelatt, director Sebastian Cordero, actress Karolina Wydra, panel moderator Dave Mosher, composer Bear McCreary and producer Ben Browning participate in a panel discussion during the New York premiere of "Europa Report." Image released on Aug. 1, 2013.
Credit: Miriam Kramer/SPACE.com

"At first it was just me and a bunch of books," screenwriter Philip Gelatt told the packed crowd at the movie's New York premiere here at the American Museum of Natural History. "There are two parts of the science: There's the space travel and then the science of Europa. I thought I had a pretty good handle on the space travel concept, so I started with the Europa science and then once there was a version of the script that was just me and the books, then we started talking to scientists which got much more intense and specific." [See Photos from "Europa Report"]

The movie follows the fate of the first crew to leave Earth bound for Europa. Sent to Jupiter's icy moon by the fictional private spaceflight firm, Europa Ventures, the international team of astronauts works toward a singular mission: to search for life on the moon.

Private spaceflight plays a pivotal role in the film partially because Gelatt wanted to model his script after the real world of spaceflight today.

"It was always part of the design that it would be a private space mission, because, in some sense, it just felt more realistic," Gelatt told SPACE.com "That's kind of the direction we're headed. In an early version of the script, it was still a private mission but it was a private mission [with] a NASA contract. There was a little bit of a government element, which was taken out. All that stuff going on on Earth wasn't as interesting as the actual mission."

NASA scientists Kevin Hand and Steven Vance helped craft the script, acting as science advisors during production and after filming ended.

"When I read the first version of the script that came my way, it already had quite a bit of research and quite a bit of accurate information which was one of the things that drew me to it."

That attention to detail also extended to the stars of the film. They immersed themselves in their characters to understand the science that motivates them.

"I did a bunch of reading," Karolina Wydra, who plays a marine biologist going to Europa in the movie, said during the premiere. "I bought a book on oceanography. I spoke to a marine biologist, so it was really interesting to get into the mind of somebody that has devoted her life to research. When I asked her about [what she would do] if she got the chance to go to Europa, if she would say yes. She said 'absolutely.'"

"Europa Report is also available online through video on demand services.

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