James Cameron may have helped reinvent 3D film-making with Avatar, but he won't get to do the same for the space program. NASA has turned down his offer to put two 3D cameras on its next Mars rover.
The Mars rover Curiosity is the most advanced vehicle we've sent to Mars yet — with six wheels and the ability to travel further, and over rougher terrain, the rover will explore more of the planet's surface. NASA aims to use Curiosity to assess whether Mars has ever held life, and whether it can support life now. Curiosity will include a number of meteorological devices that can measure weather conditions, plus a laser that can determine the atomic makeup of rocks or patches of soil. The rover even includes some equipment that could allow it to send a selection of soil and rock samples back to Earth.
Cameron wanted to attach a pair of 3D zoom lenses to a boom extending from the roof of the rover, which will land on Mars in 2012. That way, anybody on Earth who had the right 3D glasses could join NASA scientists in watching "cinema-quality footage." But NASA scientists weren't confident that the 3D cameras would be working in time for the launch, scheduled for this summer. Having already spent $2.5 billion on the project, NASA didn't want to risk a delay, or having the cameras fail.
Cameron released a statement over the weekend, in which he said, "While Curiosity won't benefit from the 3D motion imaging that the zooms enable, I'm certain that this technology will play an important role in future missions."