Listened to Experts

Director Sebastian Cordero and his producers worked with advisers from the Science & Entertainment Exchange, an initiative of the National Academies of Science. A pair of planetary scientists scrutinized every detail. One example: They figured out exactly how Jupiter would look, in terms of size and the orientation of its stripes, as the crew flew by.

Reviewed NASA Records

Since the film is presented as found footage, Cordero reviewed hours of Apollo film recordings to better understand how a space mission might look on camera. In particular, he noticed the stars—or lack thereof: They were so dim that the cameras didn’t pick them up. So rather than a starscape, Cordero used a black background in production.

Didn’t Show What They Didn’t Know

For the movie’s more speculative aspects, Cordero used allusion more than illustration. “I was initially afraid that these guys would go too far with trying to depict what might be found on Europa,” says science adviser Kevin Hand. Instead, the film crew left the details tantalizingly—and sometimes terrifyingly—ambiguous. Europa Report premieres on demand on June 27 and in theaters August 2.

This article originally appeared in the July 2013 issue of Popular Science. See the rest of the magazine here.