October 7, 2013
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“The fundamental questions we’re trying to answer are questions humanity has asked ever since we first gazed into the night sky: What is life and could it exist out there beyond Earth?”
Astrobiologist and National Geographic Emerging Explorer Kevin Hand is looking for real extraterrestrials. He is currently helping plan a NASA mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa to investigate evidence of a vast subsurface ocean, a body of water which could sustain primitive forms of life on this alien world nearly 600 million miles from our planet.
Based at Pasadena’s world-famous Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Hand is designing instruments for the probe that will travel to Europa. To gain perspective on the conditions these instruments will have to endure, and to see how microbes eke out a living in our world’s harshest climes, Hand has traveled to the most forbidding environments on Earth. He has conducted studies on the glaciers of Mount Kilimanjaro, the valleys of Antarctica, and the depths of our oceans.
Aside from his compelling scientific work, Hand founded Cosmos Education, a nonprofit organization that empowers some of Africa’s poorest children through science, health, and environmental education, In 2005, Hand appeared alongside director James Cameron in Aliens of the Deep, applying his knowledge about extraterrestrial environments to Earth’s own unexplored territories. And in the summer of 2012, Hand joined Cameron’s team on his historic Challenger Deep dive into the Marianas Trench, the deepest place on the planet. Join Hand for a firsthand report on the ongoing search for life on other worlds.
Masthead photo credit: Guillermo Abramson