NASA‘s next Mars rover, going by the name Curiosity, is nuclear powered and the size of a small car. If that weren’t enough to make you want to ride it around some kind of Weird-West-Martian hellscape, it’s also getting a set of 3D cameras courtesy of James Cameron.
Malin Space Science Systems had already delivered a set of cameras capable of taking high-def color video of both near and far objects, but NASA has provided the funding for Malin to work with Cameron to develop two 3D cameras with zoom lenses.
From Computer World:
“Restoring the zoom is not a science issue, although there will be some science benefits,” said Michael Malin, president and chief scientist of Malin Space Science Systems, in a statement. “The fixed focal length [cameras] we just delivered will do almost all of the science we originally proposed. But they cannot provide a wide field of view with comparable eye stereo. With the zoom [cameras], we’ll be able to take cinematic video sequences in 3D on the surface of Mars.
The most tangible benefit of the cameras is that they will record high-fidelity 3D video for the folks back home, and that’s certainly why Cameron is interested in (and even lobbied for) the project. Here’s a quote from him, talking about his putative fictional documentary film on the first manned Mars base:
I think that any kind of exploration should always try to acquire the highest level of imaging. That’s how you engage people — you can put them there, give them the sense that they’re standing there on the surface of Mars.
Curiosity is slated to launch in 2011.
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