James Cameron is really starting to take his movies too seriously. Last month, the director descended the Mariana Trench in a submarine all beginning-of-Titanic style. Now Cameron and a bunch of other super-rich dudes say they are bankrolling a project to mine space asteroids for precious metals and rare minerals. (Remember Avatar? A bunch of greedy Americans invade a pristine alien planet to extract natural resources. Chaos — and alien/human love — ensue.)

Cameron joins Google execs Eric Schimdt and Larry Page, Peter Diamandis (of X Prize fame), Eric Anderson, and other multi-millionaires in launching Planetary Resources, a new company focused on space exploration and innovation. The long-term plan is for the company to mine asteroids for precious metals. Apparently asteroids are veritable treasure troves — a 98-foot asteroid can hold anywhere from $25 billion to $50 billion worth of platinum.

In the more near term, Planetary Resources aims to open space exploration to private industry and cut down the cost of space robotics.

The company’s first step is to develop technologies to cut the cost of deep-space robotic probes to one-tenth to one-hundredth the cost of current space missions, which run hundreds of millions of dollars, Diamandis said.

Within five to 10 years, however, the company expects to progress from selling observation platforms in orbit around Earth to prospecting services. It plans to tap some of the thousands of asteroids that pass relatively close to Earth and extract their raw materials.

The real payoff, which is decades away, will come from mining asteroids for platinum group metals and rare minerals.

No word on how much this venture is costing Cameron and his elite cronies, but we’re guessing it’s somewhere in the realm of a million bajillion dollars.