Mars. The Red Planet. If there are or were aliens anywhere in this solar system, that's the place they'd be. The planet once had an atmosphere, roughly 4 billion years ago, as well as active waterways. It is lifeless now (as far as we know), but it is also unique within this solar system as a world that is potentially habitable. At the very least, it is one that is worth exploring more thoroughly. It is no surprise then that "Avatar" filmmaker James Cameron is hooked in with NASA's plans to further explore the fourth planet in our solar system, as he told MTV's Kara Warner during a recent interview.
"I'm actually on the team developing the new camera for the Mars Science Laboratory, which launches next year," he said. "Theoretically, we will have a motion-image stereoscopic camera on the surface of Mars in 2011, and it will be making the first 3-D movie on Mars — well, it's not really a movie, but we'll be taking motion shots."
Anyone familiar with Cameron's work knows that he's been a fan of outer space for a long time. He actually has quite a long history with NASA. "I started 11 years ago working on a Mars project that led me to doing a lot of research, meeting a lot of people at NASA, getting involved with people, and then at a certain point, a couple years ago, they said, 'Wait a minute, this guy knows a lot about Mars, he knows a lot about 3-D cameras, zoom lenses, motion photography, all the things we're incorporating into this new camera system. Why don't we bring him in?'"
Cameron has also given no small amount of thought to sending humans into space for extended periods, and to explore regions previously seen only with help from machines. In "Avatar," the human race has reached a point in space exploration where sending teams out to gather minerals on distant, environmentally hostile worlds is a reality. We're not quite there yet, but the reality of human space exploration is on Cameron's mind nonetheless.
"Oh, yeah, I've been thinking about the issues of sending human beings to Mars for a long time," he said. "The public has to want it — that's number one — because it has to be paid for. I think commercial, new, lean enterprises like [PayPal co-founder] Elon Musk's company SpaceX, which is going to be creating human transportation to the space station. They're a good candidate to build the systems that could get us to Mars, for example. But it still requires the national will, and right now, that national will, quite frankly, isn't up to the task. People don't care about it enough, which is why I want to make films about this and get people excited about exploration."