An Exciting Hancock Symposium Preview Video of NASA Chief Scientist James Green

A livestream test run of the upcoming virtual Hancock Symposium on Sept. 16, 2020, captured NASA Chief Scientist Dr. James Green enthusiastically discussing visiting Westminster in person, but only after “we land on Mars.”

Green casually mentions NASA is planning to venture to Mars in February 2021.

As if simply describing how to make a sandwich, Green verbally illustrates to Dr. Jeremy Straughn, coordinator and co-chair of Hancock Symposium 2020, how one lands spacecraft on another planet.

“I’ve got a one-ton rover on the way to Mars,” Green explains with an ironic grin. “And underneath it is a helicopter. It’s going to land, and we’re going to drop the helicopter, and then the helicopter is going to take off …”

In this video clip, the naturally animated scientist, who previously called his upcoming Hancock Symposium presentation his “Monty Python adventure,” sits in his personal office among shelves of books in a white NASA dress shirt.

Leaning back casually in his office chair, Green describes his NASA pride, exclaiming, “That was my mission! I was head of Planetary for 12 years, so everything from Messenger, Lunar Reconnaissance work, Dawn, New Horizons flying by Pluto, Cassini and Saturn, Curiosity, Spirit and Opportunity … all those missions were mine!”

Watch the video to see how Green lands helicopters on Mars — with a vacuum chamber and a little carbon dioxide while fighting 120-mile-an-hour winds — and be sure to make plans to view his talk titled “The Search for Life Beyond Earth in Space and Time” at 9:15 a.m. on Sept. 16.

In addition to Green, nearly 20 individuals are scheduled to speak during Hancock Symposium 2020: Vision & Values. A complete schedule can be found on our website. Watch especially for the following:

  • An introduction of Green by Dinosaur Discoverer Dr. David Schmidt (think 165 million years of dinosaurs on Earth, stray comets, and how space exploration remains relevant to us today).
  • A riveting mental health discussion by a New York Times bestselling author Susannah Cahalan who lived through a terrifying brain disease.
  • A behind-the-scenes talk by lab director Bill Whitmar on how the Missouri Public Health Laboratory is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Climate change as portrayed in fiction by rising-star novelist Omar El Akkad and editor-in-chief of the Chicago Review of Books Amy Brady.

The above sessions, Green’s presentation, and more will be viewable on the College’s livestream link and all Westminster social media platforms. Use #HancockSymposium2020 to ask questions during all livestreamed sessions.

For those on campus, additional sessions are available after registration through Canvas (watch for correspondence on those talks). Meanwhile, contemplate what Green says about key people and events in our lives.

Earlier in his recent discussion with Straughn, Green summed up what many could say is the crux of what Hancock Symposium should be for the Westminster community. In describing “gravity assists,” where objects can be forced into motion by falling into another planet’s orbit, Green explained he experienced many gravity assists throughout his life.

He then posed the question, “What’s your gravity assist?” Tune in Sept. 16 to learn more.

The Hancock Symposium is funded in perpetuity by a generous gift from alumnus David Hancock, ’67 FIJI, of Kansas City, MO.

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Sarah Rummel Backer

Sarah Rummel Backer is the Director of Media Relations and Senior Writer at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. A proud Westminster graduate, Sarah has more than 20 years of experience in marketing and strategic communications in the areas of higher education, medicine, agriculture, and the private business sector.