The Society created The Cosmos Award for Public Presentation of Science to encourage excellence in conveying the wonders of science by the media. Our first recipient of the Cosmos Award is director James Cameron.
James Cameron, who saw his film, Titanic, win the Academy Award for Best Picture while he won for Best Director, has chosen since then to devote a considerable part of his life and work to making documentaries that convey the thrill of exploration and the wonder of scientific discovery.
Take, for example, Aliens of the Deep. Jim’s most recent effort uses advanced underwater technology—which he helped develop— to create a 3-D IMAX experience through which viewers can share the adventure of exploring strange, vibrant ecosystems warmed and fed at the bottom of the ocean by hydrothermal vents issuing from Earth’s interior.
In this film, Jim demonstrates that “…real science, rendered by a consummate showman, can be a breathtaking, inspiring spectacle.” (From the review of Aliens of the Deep in the February 2005 issue of Popular Science.)
I’m sensing a resurgence of the collective will. We stand on the edge of a glorious new age of exploration. The future is ready and willing — if we are.”
— James Cameron, Wired Magazine, December 2004
As an explorer at heart, Jim understands that the same impulse that drives scientists and adventurers to voyage to the bottom of the sea also sends humanity’s robotic emissaries to the depths of space and will someday send humans themselves to walk on Mars—and maybe even attempt to explore even more challenging worlds.
Aliens of the Deep deftly makes this connection as it closes with a sequence imagining the exploration of the other water-world in our solar system, Jupiter’s moon Europa. In the distant ocean that lies beneath Europa’s frozen crust, future explorers may someday discover that Earth is not the only planet to support life.
In his writings and public talks, Jim is an unabashed advocate of space exploration, and his message resonates strongly with the mission of The Planetary Society, especially the goal of seeing humans someday walk on the Red Planet. He understands the power of people—particularly constituents of elected officials— who join who together in pursuit of such a challenging and ambitious goal as exploring Mars. As he wrote in Wired Magazine:
“So, as the ones paying the bills, we have to shout out that we want this! Our shout has to be loud enough that in the mind of the politician, that fear-based processing algorithm, the fear of going becomes less than the fear of not going.”
How could The Planetary Society not give the first Cosmos award to Jim Cameron?
To honor the innovators who follow in Carl Sagan's tradition of presenting science and scientists in an accurate, yet entertaining and enthralling, way, The Planetary Society created the Cosmos Award for Outstanding Public Presentation of Science.