Michael here. Jim and I are huge space and NASA buffs, so this news makes us very excited: James Cameron has successfully lobbied NASA administrator Charles Bolden to include the 3DHD version of the Mast Camera (Mastcam) that was removed from the Curiosity rover due to budgetary concerns back in 2007 (a very questionable decision in my opinion).
Curiosity is scheduled to launch towards Mars on October 14, 2011.
In January Cameron met one-on-one with Bolden, and, according to the AP, argued that a rover with a better set of eyes would help the public connect with the mission. Bolden was convinced.
"He actually was really open to the idea," Cameron told the Pasadena Star News. "Our first meeting went very well."
A mast camera, without 3-D capabilities, had already been built and was delivered to JPL this month. The Curiosity team isn't positive the new camera will be ready in time. However, I'd bet it will be given that Cameron and many others (including those on the team) are so excited about it. They will find a way to get it done right and on time.
As for potential uses for the 3D HD camera, there are many: "You could take a movie and image clouds moving in the sky or a dust devil moving," said Joy Crisp, JPL deputy project scientist on Mars Science Laboratory, the official name of the rover project. "As you're driving, you could take a movie."
Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego is now building the 3D Mastcam. Cameron is the co-investigator of the Mastcam. And as we learned in our exclusive interview with Cameron, his work on that (although he is doing some work now) doesn't really start in earnest until the camera starts sending back imagery.
The Mastcam shoots 3D 720P at 10 frames per second. That would look spectacular if integrated into a Cameron-produced documentary on Mars, wouldn't it?