Belcourt Theatre Nashville, TN


Dr. Steve Howell

Project Scientist on the Kepler Mission, NASA Ames Research Center

moderated by

Dr. Tracie Prater

Aerospace Engineer, NASA

Contact— The Search for Extraterrestrial Life

A discussion of the search for extraterrestrial life. Part of the 2017 National Evening of Science on Screen.

Belcourt Theatre Nashville, TN

Film Synopsis

Dr. Ellie Arroway, after years of searching, finds conclusive radio proof of intelligent aliens, who send plans for a mysterious machine.

In this Robert Zemeckis-directed adaptation of the Carl Sagan novel, Dr. Ellie Arroway (Jodie Foster) is a headstrong scientist who races to interpret a signal originating from the Vega star system. An incredible message is found hidden in the signal, containing the plans for a mysterious machine. But once first contact with an extraterrestrial intelligence is proven, Arroway must contend with inflexible National Security Advisor Michael Kitz (James Woods) and religious fanatics bent on containing the implications of such an event.

About the Speaker

Dr. Steve B. Howell is currently the head of the Space Sciences and Astrobiology Division at the NASA Ames Research Center following his success as project scientist of both the Kepler and K2 missions. He received his PhD in astrophysics at the University of Amsterdam and has over 900 scientific publications spanning research on variable stars, instrumentation, spectroscopy, and exoplanets. Dr. Howell has written or contributed to numerous scientific books, and his textbook on digital imaging detectors (CCDs) is the standard in college courses around the world. Working as the scientist in charge of the planet hunting Kepler mission inspired the creation of A Kepler's Dozen: a collection of short stories about real exoplanets, including his first science fiction work. A frequent invited speaker at scientific conferences and public forums, Dr. Howell has a passion for sharing astronomy with people throughout the world.

Dr. Tracie Prater
is an aerospace engineer in the Materials and Processes Laboratory at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, where she is currently the materials discipline lead for the in-space manufacturing (ISM) project. Using the International Space Station as a testbed, ISM is responsible for developing the manufacturing capabilities needed to produce parts on demand during long duration, crewed space exploration missions. She also serves as a subject matter expert for NASA's Centennial Challenge on 3D Printing of Habitats, a public competition for additive manufacturing of structural habitats using recyclable materials and in situ resources. She has a PhD in mechanical engineering from Vanderbilt University.