Famed filmmaker James Cameron took a weightless plane ride Saturday (Oct. 9) to raise money for the high-tech, high-stakes contests sponsored by the X Prize Foundation.
Riding with the "Avatar" director was an entourage of 30, including X Prize chairman and CEO Peter Diamandis, private rocket builder Elon Musk ? CEO of SpaceX ? and three members of the public who won an auction to join the flight. [Photo: James Cameron in Zero G]
The passengers rode aboard G-Force One, a modified Boeing 727-200 jet owned by the Zero Gravity Corrporation of Vienna, Va., that is flown in parabolic arcs across the sky to induce a few moments of zero gravity, as well as simulated Mars (1/3-strength) and lunar (1/6-strength) gravity.
The auction raised a total of $210,000 for the California-based non-profit foundation, which aims to stimulate technology breakthroughs in life sciences, energy and the environment, education and global development, and space and ocean exploration. Normally, tickets for a weightless ride aboard G Force One costs about $4,950 per person.
"The rapid acceleration of technology is enabling small teams to conduct exploration that was only possible by national governments," Cameron said in a statement. "The X Prize Foundation helps to set and incentivize audacious and worthy targets. If 'Avatar' has created heightened interest on the importance of caring for our environment, science exploration and the potential for groundbreaking innovation then we have succeeded."
Cameron is an advisor to the foundation's exploration prize committee. Other passengers included FOX Films chief executive Jim Gianopulos, author Tim Ferriss ("The 4-Hour Workweek") and Rob McEwen, chairman and CEO of the US Gold mining company.
In 2004 the X Prize foundation bestowed $10 million on the Scaled Composites company for building the first privately funded reusable manned spacecraft. Since then, the foundation has developed new contests with multimillion-dollar prizes for achievements in moon exploration, automotive fuel economy and genetics research, among others.
"Entrepreneurs and innovators are creating technologies which are making spaceflight affordable... whether it is flying aboard a Zero-G flight, a sub-orbital flight into space, or a private flight to orbit," Diamandis said. "The funds raised during this flight will help us design and launch audacious future X Prizes which will help humanity expand beyond the bounds of Earth."
- Top 10 Fantasy Spaceships Becoming Reality
- First-Hand Look: One Family's Unforgettable Zero Gravity Holiday
- 2,000 Ping Pong Balls in Zero G, And Not a Paddle in Sight