It's no secret Avatar-superdirector James Cameron loves space. From 2003 to 2005, he served on the NASA Advisory Council. At 15, he wept while watching the Columbia shuttle launch on television. So when President Obama proposed to kill NASA's back-to-the-moon program, you'd expect Cameron to bawl his eyes out.
But Cameron's not crying. In a column in The Washington Post, Cameron champions Obama's decision. His applause is particularly odd given that in 2005, after Bush revived NASA's moon mission, he was ecstatic. Cameron explains:
It was with some trepidation that I waited for the NASA budget to be unveiled this week. I was concerned that amid the nation's fiscal crises, space exploration would fall off the priority to-do list. But the new NASA budget reveals a pathway to a bright future of exploration in the coming years.
Cameron applauds the president's call for a public-private partnership to accomplish NASA's agenda:
The president and NASA have crafted a bold plan that truly makes possible this nation's dreams for space. Their plan calls for the full embrace of commercial solutions for transporting astronauts to low Earth orbit after the space shuttle is retired this year. This frees NASA to do what it does best: deep space exploration, both robotic and human.
He argues that handing off NASA's enterprise to private companies will strengthen America's space program:
When the shuttle is finally retired after about three decades of service, the United States will be dependent on the Russian Soyuz to get our astronauts to the international space station, at a cost of $50 million per person. But under the new NASA plan, private industry will take over this capability within a few years, much more quickly than Constellation would have, and at a competitive price. The money saved will be plowed into research and development of robotic explorers that will act as precursors and technology demonstrators, paving the way for human exploration of the moon, asteroids and Mars.