NASA Sinks Mars Rover 3D Camera Upgrade

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It wasn’t enough to trawl the Titanic or craft the film industry’s best looking azure-blue E.T.’s, filmmaker James Cameron wanted to put a high-resolution 3D camera on NASA’s Mars rover, too.

Alas, ’tis not to be, says NASA, who admitted the zoom camera couldn’t be thoroughly tested in time for the rover’s launch later this year–a launch that’s been delayed since 2009.

Cameron’s been after NASA to give the latest Mars rover–dubbed Curiosity–a pair of high-end specs since last year. Working with Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego, Cameron hoped to add updates to Curiosity‘s current Mastcam optics system and give the rover the ability to zoom and capture images in 3D.

“With the Mastcam that was installed last year and the rover’s other instruments, Curiosity can accomplish its ambitious research goals,” said project scientist John Grotzinger in a statement, adding that while Cameron’s upgrade was “very much worth pursuing,” timetables were too compressed “for the levels of testing that would be needed…to confidently replace the existing cameras.”

That’s hardly the last word, and Malin says it’ll continue chipping away at the upgrade for future NASA deployments–and so will Cameron.

“While Curiosity won’t benefit from the 3-D motion imaging that the zooms enable, I’m certain that this technology will play an important role in future missions,” said Cameron in a statement.

Look for Curiosity to launch later this year, and touchdown at some point in August 2012.

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