Film director, producer and screenwriter James Cameron has supplied cinema-goers with more than their fair share of thrills ‘n’ spills over the years in such movies as ’Rambo: First Blood Part II’ with Sylvester Stallone, and the 1994 action-comedy ‘True Lies,’ co-starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis. But a number of his films within the science-fiction genre in particular, have also presented audiences with a crystal ball-like glimpse into future worlds that, over the passing of time, have steadily made their way into real life. The latest example of this occurred just a few days ago, after it was revealed that Cameron is throwing his support behind an ambitious venture to extract raw materials, precious metals and water from asteroids that orbit near Earth. The project was formally announced by Peter Diamandis and Eric Anderson, the co-founders of ‘Planetary Resources,’ a company that, according to the official website, promises to, “apply commercial innovation to space exploration.”
It’s been widely reported that the project will initially focus on developing and selling low-cost robotic spacecraft for surveying assignments. A demonstration mission in orbit around Earth is expected to be launched within two years. Anderson said, “we have a long view. We’re not expecting this company to be an overnight financial home run. This is going to take time.” Diamandis adds, “if you look back historically at what has caused humanity to make its largest investments in exploration and in transportation, it has been going after resources, whether it’s the Europeans going after the spice routes or the American settlers looking toward the west for gold, oil, timber or land. Those precious resources caused people to make huge investments in ships and railroads and pipelines. Looking to space, everything we hold of value on Earth – metals, minerals, energy, real estate, water – is in near-infinite quantities in space. The opportunity exists to create a company whose mission is to be able to go and basically identify and access some of those resources and ultimately figure out how to make them available where they are needed.”
Diamandis and Anderson are no strangers when it comes to Boldly Going Where Few Men Have Gone Before. Both are regarded as pioneers in the personal spaceflight industry; Anderson’s company, ‘Space Adventures’ assisted Dennis Tito to become the first space tourist to fly into orbit in 2001. A further six clients have since followed him. Diamandis’s company, ‘Zero Gravity Corporation,’ offers the general public weightless airplane flights.
The mega-million dollar mining scheme is receiving the financial backing of ‘Google’ chiefs Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, ‘Google’ founding director K. Ram Shriram, and former ‘Microsoft’ chief software architect Charles Simonyi. Film director, James Cameron is on the panel of advisers.
‘Planetary Resources’ adviser and former NASA astronaut, Thomas Jones says the project is “the stuff of science fiction, but like in so many other areas of science fiction, it’s possible to begin the process of making them reality.”
Indeed it is – and Cameron should know – having explored this theme himself in the 2009 blockbuster ‘Avatar’ which is set in the year 2148 when humans are forced to mine for raw materials from other planets after having severely depleted Earth’s natural resources. The film charts their exploits on ‘Pandora,’ a densely forested moon of a gas giant in the Alpha Centauri star system inhabited by an indigenous humanoid tribe of blue-skinned giants called, The Na’vi.
The inhabitants of Earth are interested in Pandora because of it’s rich abundance of unobtanium, a precious mineral valued at “20 million a kilo.” However, their aggressive expansion of a mining colony on the lush planet is threatening the very existence of the Na’vi who live in harmony with nature and worship a Mother Goddess called Eywa.
Because Pandora’s atmosphere is poisonous to human-beings, they can only visit it through the use of Navi-human hybrids called ‘avatars,’ which are operated remotely by genetically-matched humans.
In February this year, the website ‘Wired.com’ reported that the American defence-research agency, ‘DARPA,’ has allotted $7 million for a project named, “Avatar,” which aims to create mechanical androids that are operated remotely by human soldiers and that can take their place on the battlefield. According to the agency, “the Avatar program will develop interfaces and algorithms to enable a soldier to effectively partner with a semi-autonomous bi-pedal machine and allow it to act as the soldier’s surrogate.”
Cameron is well-renowned for his pro-active interest in the exploration of Space. As well as serving as a member on the NASA Advisory Council, he has also raised money for and appeared at events in support of the ‘Mars Society’, a non-profit organisation lobbying for the colonisation of Mars through private funding. Established in 1998, it’s aims include the further development of a manned mission, as proposed in a research paper by NASA engineers Robert Zubrin and David Baker. Cameron was also hard at work on the development of a 3-D zoom camera system for NASA’s Mars Rover mission last year, until he was forced to shelve the project over doubts whether it would be ready in time for the November 2011 launch date.
There were also interesting real-life parallels drawn from another of Cameron’s movies following his return from a three-hour five-mile deep dive to the bottom of the New Britain Trench in the Pacific Ocean earlier this year. The director’s record-breaking trek down to what is recognised as the deepest point on Earth and known as “Challenger Deep,” was the first time any one had accomplished the trip solo. He was preceded by oceanographers Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh who became the first men to reach the bottom in 1960. The event caught the imagination of the world’s Press and subsequent news-stories ran with headlines referencing Cameron’s 1989 science-fiction film, ’The Abyss,’ which follows the adventures of a SEAL team stationed in an underwater oil platform and assigned with rescuing a sunken US ballistic missile submarine. It’s while they are based there, that they come into contact with strange intelligent sea creatures otherwise described as, “NTI’s” (Non Terrestrial Intelligence).
Cameron’s record-breaking journey to the deepest depths in March this year would probably have never been possible had it not have been for his work on ‘The Abyss’ which eventually led to him becoming an expert on deep-sea diving exploration. Describing the shooting of the movie as, “reel for real,” Cameron filmed the underwater scenes in the containment building of an unfinished nuclear power plant. Two huge tanks were filled with a total of 10,000,000 US gallons of water and scaled depths of up to 40 feet. The actors and crew were given a week’s worth of underwater diving-training prior to filming in order to prepare them for their hands-on participation. They subsequently experienced moments of decompression as a result of the time spent submerged whilst cameras were rolling.
The comparisons don’t stop there…
In March this year, US scientists announced the creation of a plastic “skin” that oozes red blood when cut and which can heal itself by mending broken molecular-bridges inside. The material could prove useful as a warning mechanism for engineers when an aircraft wing is damaged or perhaps to ‘self-heal’ ordinary household appliances such as computers and mobile phones. This invention isn’t far-removed from the ‘cybernetic organism’ portrayed by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Cameron-directed ‘Terminator’ series of movies which follows the adventures of a time-travelling robot-assassin soldier that not only has the ability to speak naturally and read human handwriting, but sweat and bleed as well.
In 2011, the engineering and robotics company, ‘Boston Dynamics‘ released information about the development of a DARPA-funded bipedal, anthropomorphic robot called, ‘PETMAN,’ which, according to it‘s makers, “balances itself as it walks, squats and does simple calisthenics. ‘PETMAN’ simulates human physiology by controlling temperature, humidity and sweating inside the clothing to provide realistic test conditions.” Furthermore, ’Boston Dynamic’s’ official website states that, “the robot will have the shape and size of a standard human, making it the first anthropomorphic robot that moves dynamically like a real person.”
‘PETMAN’ was the successor to the ‘Boston Dynamics’ robot, ‘BigDog’ originally created in 2005. According to the company website, the ‘BigDog,’ “runs at 4 mph, climbs slopes up to 35 degrees, walks across rubble, climbs a muddy hiking trail, walks in snow and water, and carries a 340 lb load. ‘BigDog’ set a world’s record for legged vehicles by travelling 12.8 miles without stopping or refuelling. The ultimate goal for ‘BigDog’ is to develop a robot that can go anywhere people and animals can go.”
As history has proven time and time again, wonders never cease when technological advances help breathe life into ideas once regarded fanciful or outlandish by preceding generations. Cameron’s accuracy in successfully anticipating such developments in his movies is impressive. This could be due to luck or accident, or it might be the fruits of what he has learnt along the way in his pro-active exploration of cutting-edge innovations in Space and on Earth.
There are some who take the view that his futuristic themes and ideas are drawn from Top Secret data that only those within a hidden elite are privy to and which have been obscured from the public gaze for decades.
Cameron’s supposed links to the high ranks of Freemasonry were explored in an infamous 1998 web-article titled ’The James Cameron Conspiracy Theory.’ In it, the author claims ‘The Terminator‘ movie, “was designed to imprint a subliminal message to unconsciously prepare the public for a higher form of technology which would arrive on Earth in the future.” This bold statement is made all the more compelling given the advances which have occurred since; namely the ‘Terminator’-like plastic ‘skin’ that “bleeds,” and the development of ‘PETMAN’ and ‘BigDog.’ Perhaps the same train of thought alluded to in the web-article was adopted by Cameron during the filming of ’Avatar’? Perhaps the director was aware that remotely-controlled, DARPA-funded “mechanical androids” similar to those seen striding across Pandora were poised to make their presence felt in the ’real-world’? Perhaps he knew that a mining mission in Space was well on it’s way too?