May 1, 2003

By Michael Strickland

Ice Moon

In 1995, NASA's Galileo probe entered orbit around Jupiter and began collecting data on the gas giant and its moons Ganymede, Io, Callisto and Europa. After reviewing information from several close fly-bys of Europa, scientists confirmed previous theories that a vast, subsurface ocean existed below the moon's icy crust. How deep the ocean, and how thick the shell of ice, has not been determined, but the discovery of an ocean on another planetary body is no small affair. The logical hypothesis that follows is, "Where there is water, there is life."

Could life exist under the ice of Europa? It's certainly a thrilling possibility. Jupiter throws off powerful bands of radiation, but Europa's icepack provides sufficient shielding. Here on Earth, some life forms thrive under harsh conditions. Microscopic life has been found deep under the Antarctic icepack, living in the very ice itself. Vast ecosystems of tubeworms, crabs and other creatures bask in the heat of hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor, far from the sun's life-giving rays and under so much pressure that the 600-degree water does not boil. Hypothesizing that life could exist on Europa, then, requires no great stretch of the imagination.

But what form would such extraterrestrial life take? Do familiar fish swim through Europa's ocean, analogous to Earth's marine animals? Or are Europa's natives more exotic, more alien? Would such life forms be as harmless as a sea cucumber, or as deadly as a Great White? Would they even be so highly evolved, or does Europa only support unicellular life?

Many questions, few answers—so far. NASA plans to launch the Europa Orbiter probe in 2008 to focus more closely on the ice-covered moon. However, I have already explored such what-ifs. In my screenplay Ice Moon, a ragtag team of freelance astronauts travels to Europa to explore the moon's subsurface ocean. There, they quickly fall prey to an apex predator whose ferocity makes a shark look like a guppy. The creature picks them off one by one as they struggle to survive long enough to escape.

Though I managed to get the script on the desks of a few film executives last year, I otherwise haven't had much luck circulating it around Hollywood. However, I recently posted it on, a screenwriting and filmmaking community where short films and scripts receive peer review. In just a few months, Ice Moon has risen in the ratings to #15 out of about 2,000 screenplays, and is flirting with the Top Ten. Though I'd largely abandoned the script, and have since moved on to my next project, there may still be "life" on Europa yet.

[Editor's Note: Sign on to and search for "ICE MOON" if you want to download and read the script—and if you do so, please take a moment to post a review.]


©2003 Michael Strickland ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

What is "The Daily Strick"?

I have long called myself a writer, but too often I don't do what a writer must do daily: write. So you, dear reader, are the beneficiary of my resolution to make a positive change in at least one area of my life. Every single day of this new year, I will write something, anything, and post it here. It is my intention to use this daily exercise to jump-start my too-long-dormant creative energies, and perhaps generate some worthwhile material this year. Hopefully you will find at least an occasional amusement or insight in my daily musings.

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4/30: Tempus Fugit
4/29: Camaraderie
4/28: A Mis Hondureños
4/27: Sunday Night Ramblings
4/26: Hair Band Nostalgia
4/25: Consequences
4/24: Lemon Curry?
4/23: My Father Midas
4/22: Earth Day
4/21: Joshua Tree, Part III
4/20: Joshua Tree, Part II
4/19: Joshua Tree, Part I
4/18: Royal Flush
4/17: A Long Strange Trip
4/16: A New Line to Back
4/15: Still Writing
4/14: Conspiracy Theory
4/13: Los Coronados
4/12: Y2K in Y2K3
4/11: Slow Glass
4/10: Freedom of Speech
4/9: Why We're Fighting
4/8: Eucalyptus Memories
4/7: Sleep
4/6: Writing, Just Not Here
4/5: Sci-Files Trivia
4/4: Sobering Up
4/3: Great White Hope
4/2: Entropy
4/1: Peace on Earth
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