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 PrizeFoundation.
Riding with the "Avatar" director was anentourage of 30, including X Prize chairman and CEO Peter Diamandis, privaterocket builder Elon Musk ? CEO of SpaceX ? and three members of the public who wonan auction to join the flight. [Photo: James Cameron in Zero G]
Thepassengers rode aboard G-ForceOne, a modified Boeing 727-200 jet owned by the ZeroGravity Corrporation of Vienna, Va., that is flown in parabolic arcs across the sky to induce a fewmoments of zero gravity, as well as simulated Mars (1/3-strength) andlunar (1/6-strength) gravity.
The auction raised a total of $210,000 for theCalifornia-based non-profit foundation, which aims to stimulate technologybreakthroughs in life sciences, energy and the environment, education andglobal development, and space and ocean exploration. Normally, tickets for aweightless ride aboard G Force One costs about $4,950 per person.
"The rapid acceleration of technology is enabling smallteams to conduct exploration that was only possible by nationalgovernments," Cameron said in a statement. "The X Prize Foundationhelps to set and incentivize audacious and worthy targets. If 'Avatar' hascreated heightened interest on the importance of caring for our environment,science exploration and the potential for groundbreaking innovation then wehave succeeded."
Cameron is an advisor to the foundation's exploration prizecommittee. Other passengers included FOX Films chief executive Jim Gianopulos, author TimFerriss ("The 4-Hour Workweek") and Rob McEwen, chairman and CEO ofthe US Gold mining company.
In2004 the X Prize foundation bestowed $10 million on theScaled Composites company for building the first privately funded reusablemanned spacecraft. Since then, the foundation has developed new contests withmultimillion-dollar prizes for achievements in moon exploration, automotivefuel economy and genetics research, among others.
"Entrepreneurs and innovators are creating technologieswhich are making spaceflight affordable... whether it is flying aboard a Zero-Gflight, a sub-orbital flight into space, or a private flight to orbit,"Diamandis said. "The funds raised during this flight will help us designand launch audacious future X Prizes which will help humanity expand beyond thebounds of Earth."
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