The Search for Life Beyond Earth with Kevin Hand, Planetary Scientist/Astrobiologist

The Search for Life Beyond Earth with Kevin Hand, Planetary Scientist/Astrobiologist

Is there life beyond Earth? Kevin Hand wants to know — and it looks like he’s about to find out. Part of an elite team of scientists aiding a NASA expedition to explore the potential ocean under one of Jupiter’s moons, Hand, an astrobiologist and National Geographic Emerging Explorer, has traversed the most punishing environs on our planet to create instruments for a 600 million mile interplanetary trip. In this riveting presentation, The Search for Life Beyond Earth, Hand shares photographs and insights from his work in the field, including the unforgiving hinterlands of Alaska’s north slope and the lightless depths of our own life-giving ocean.

April 1 Ferguson Hall

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Show Dates & Times

Tuesday 7 p.m.
April 1, 2014

What to Expect

Dr. Kevin P. Hand is a planetary scientist/astrobiologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif. His work focuses on the origin, evolution, and distribution of life in the solar system and involves both numerical modeling and laboratory research on the physics and chemistry of icy moons in the outer solar system, with an emphasis on Jupiter’s second large moon, Europa. Hand has served on NASA’s Science Definition Teams for the Europa Flagship mission and has worked on several instruments for solar system exploration, including an active mid-infrared micro-Fourier Transform spectrometer that was field tested in Antarctica and proposed for the instrument suite on Mars Science Lab rover. He is also the science principal investigator for the NASA Astrobiology Institute’s Icy Worlds node at JPL. His work has taken him from the depths of the oceans to the summit of Kilimanjaro. Hand has been featured in several documentaries on television and in an Imax film. Hand earned a bachelors degree in physics and astronomy from Dartmouth College, a master in mechanical engineering from Stanford University, and a Ph.D. in geological and environmental sciences from Stanford University. He was a visiting scholar in the astrophysics department at Princeton before joining the staff at JPL. Hand was born and raised in Manchester, Vt.

About the Show

Astrobiologist and National Geographic Emerging Explorer Kevin Hand searches for life beyond Earth. 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 search for real extraterrestrials.