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Artists Concept of Curiosity  (Source: NASA)
Cameron convinced NASA not to cut the 3D camera from the rover design

2010 is the year of 3D entertainment by all accounts. 3D TVs and Blu-ray players are coming to the marketplace and the consumer market is starting to embrace 3D in the home. 3D films are also hitting theaters in increasing numbers, raising the profile of 3D technology even further.

The biggest film to ever hit 3D and the most successful movie at the box office ever was James Cameron's
Avatar. Avatar broke box office records around the world and the sales of the film on Blu-ray are breaking home entertainment records as well. James Cameron's name is synonymous with 3D today thanks to the success of the Avatar film.

Cameron has now teamed up with NASA to help design a 3D camera that will be placed aboard the next Mars rover dubbed Curiosity. Curiosity is currently slated to launch towards Mars in 2011. Plans for a 3D camera aboard the rover were reportedly scrapped due to budget concerns earlier in the project.

CNET News reports that Cameron stepped in and convinced NASA to include the 3D camera on the rover. CBS News reports that Cameron explained to NASA administrators that a rover with a 3D camera would help people connect with the mission.

The new 3D camera is now being built by Malin Space Science Systems and lists Cameron as a co-investigator in the project. The Curiosity rover has the official name Mars Science Laboratory and it is being sent to Mars to study whether or not the planet has or could support microbial life.

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3d camera
By foursight on 4/30/2010 10:08:07 AM , Rating: 1
This is a good idea to put a video camera onboard. the last two rovers did not have video cameras and just took still pictures. They did not capture the general public's interest as much because of this. They should send rovers to the moons of jupitor and saturn with video cameras too.

RE: 3d camera
By marsbound2024 on 4/30/2010 10:18:05 AM , Rating: 3
It's a lot harder to get rovers onto the surface of world's without an atmosphere because you have to rely on chemical rockets (like hydrazine) to slow them down so they don't crash. With Mars and Titan, you can equip parachutes. The Moon was easier because spacecraft could take a slower trajectory and then use their chemical rockets to soft-land. This isn't near as easy when you have to account for delta-v to other areas in the solar system.

RE: 3d camera
By puckalicious on 4/30/2010 10:36:31 AM , Rating: 2
The mars rovers have used a combination of parachutes, airbags, and thrusters for a controlled impact on the surface.

RE: 3d camera
By CZroe on 4/30/2010 11:17:13 AM , Rating: 3
I don't see where it says "video camera." 3D does not imply video.

RE: 3d camera
By MrTeal on 4/30/2010 11:32:41 AM , Rating: 4
The linked article also implies that it's a still camera, not a video camera. Given the bandwidth limitations they have, I can't imagine a video camera would be particularly useful, 3D or otherwise.

RE: 3d camera
By The0ne on 4/30/2010 1:34:53 PM , Rating: 2
Bandwidth alone won't let it happen :)

RE: 3d camera
By foursight on 4/30/2010 11:42:08 AM , Rating: 2
I hope they dont just use a 3d still image camera. millions of people would like to see the images streamed live as the craft descends to the surface and explores the planet. They did it in 1969 when they went to the moon and generated massive public interest. They should have put a video camera on the probe that landed on Titan, and send rovers with live video cameras to Europa too.

RE: 3d camera
By delphinus100 on 4/30/2010 7:37:41 PM , Rating: 2
They did it in 1969 when they went to the moon and generated massive public interest.

There was live video as the crew exited the LM for the surface, but not on the way down. That was film footage they brought back. We only had audio and news studio simulations for that part.

And it only makes sense, as it would've been difficult to also have a high-gain antenna (necessary even for that medium-res video bandwidth) track Earth during descent.

"Yes, I remember it well..."

They should have put a video camera on the probe that landed on Titan,

Again, not live, but it can be found:

But Huygens wasn't a rover so, not much for video to do, once down.

RE: 3d camera
By Samus on 5/2/2010 2:31:07 AM , Rating: 2
I have a feeling this camera is leaning more in the HDR photography direction instead of being something 'special.'

3D doesn't offer any benifits photographically since the other onboard instruments provide enough data to interpolate depth of field (using sonar/radar, both equiped on previous rovers) and tridirectional servo's to move the lens to any desired position.

I agree though, if they don't equip a video feed this isn't really an improvement. Bandwidth is irrelevent; it doesn't need to be realtime.

RE: 3d camera
By Souka on 4/30/2010 11:48:05 AM , Rating: 2
yeah I noticed that too... it's a still camera, not video folks!

See it for yourself here:

Kinda looks like a SLR with a funky lens attached :)

RE: 3d camera
By foursight on 4/30/2010 12:30:15 PM , Rating: 2
So its a 3d stills camera. Thats just dumb in my opinion. They need to put a video camera onboard with a webcam so that anyone can access it via the web at anytime day and night. Imagine seeing a sunset or sunrise on mars or a dust devil in real time as the rover explores the planet. Better still they could point it to the skies to see earth rise or the martian moons, or event jupitor from mars. They should sent it to the top of the huge extinct volcano or to explore the canyon, or the polar ice caps. Where has the imagination gone? Maybe its time for private companies to take over and charge subscription fees on cable tv.

RE: 3d camera
By B3an on 5/1/2010 5:55:33 PM , Rating: 3
They only thing dumb here is you thinking it's possible to have a live video stream all the way from mars, and get any kind of remotely watchable picture considering the bandwidth limits.

RE: 3d camera
By Redwin on 5/3/2010 10:55:27 AM , Rating: 2
Yes... it does.. twice.

From the linked article (2nd paragraph from the bottom)

NASA's decision to include the 3D Mastcam will give Curiosity the ability to film cinematic sequences of Mars

Also, in more detail, from the (2 links deep) article on the actual camera developer (Malin Space Science Systems) site.
(4th paragraph from the bottom)

"With the zoom Mastcams, we'll be able to take cinematic video sequences in 3D on the surface of Mars. This will give our public engagement Co-Investigator, James Cameron, tools similar to those he used on his recent 3D motion picture projects"

By invidious on 4/30/2010 11:06:05 AM , Rating: 2
Cameron explained to NASA administrators that a rover with a 3D camera would help people connect with the mission.
Ugh what a terrible reason. Is NASA really this desperate for public interest? Anyone who doesn't care about space exploration isn't going to be entrawled by the novelty of 3D images/clips of a barren red planet. Mars doesn't look like Pandora and seeing it in 3D will only serve to reinforce that fact.

RE: seriously?
By HotFoot on 4/30/2010 11:57:06 AM , Rating: 2
I'm pretty sure it's a big part of NASA's mandate to engage the public and encourage interest in space science and exploration. The value is immediately apparent in inspiring children to get involved with science.

Though, maybe my opinion is a little biased. I'm an aerospace engineer lol.

RE: seriously?
By lightfoot on 4/30/2010 12:51:48 PM , Rating: 2
Mars doesn't look like Pandora and seeing it in 3D will only serve to reinforce that fact.

That is why James Cameron will help NASA with the special effects too.

I have no doubt that James Cameron could have done fake moon landings much better than NASA did the real ones.

RE: seriously?
By Nfarce on 4/30/2010 1:01:59 PM , Rating: 2
Well NASA is not in the movie making business any more than the military. Besides, you are talking about 1969 camera technology on those landings.

RE: seriously?
By foursight on 4/30/2010 1:10:06 PM , Rating: 2
If the military can put live video cameras on bombs, why cant nasa put video cameras on a martian rover?

RE: seriously?
By maven81 on 4/30/2010 2:23:47 PM , Rating: 2
Because the bandwidth from that distance would be minuscule. And that doesn't take into account the signal travel time either which if I remember correctly is 20 around 20 minutes when Mars is closest to us). So you can forget about "live" coverage.
But something here doesn't add up... NASA had created 3D terrain maps of the landing sites before. As well as posting 3D images that could be seen with red/blue glasses. This article makes it sound like NASA has never taken 3D images of the surface, which is not true.

RE: seriously?
By foursight on 4/30/2010 2:42:48 PM , Rating: 2
It is not impossible to send a video recording from mars to earth and play it back when it gets here even if it takes an hour to reach here. Surely, there must be a way to do it.

RE: seriously?
By maven81 on 4/30/2010 3:47:39 PM , Rating: 2
You're right, it would get here, but it would have to be really low res and highly compressed. Think about the distance that signal would have to travel, I'm guessing just to get DVD quality you'd need either a huge dish on Mars, or transmitter with massive amounts of power. A rover isn't going to have either.

RE: seriously?
By MrTeal on 4/30/2010 3:53:59 PM , Rating: 4
Yeah, use really low resolution and frame rates. Even then, without a network of relay stations, you can't transmit constantly since the rover or satellite has to have line of sight to the Earth. For a point of reference, using the Odyssey orbiter as a relay the Spirit rover is capable of 256kbps. The cameras on Spirit have a 1 megapixel resolution, and the images are compressed to about 1 bit/pixel using a very efficient algorithm.

Basically, you could either build a rover to do science missions and share the images with the public once they come in, or say screw the science, let's blow all the bandwidth with a $500M mobile webcam.

RE: seriously?
By icanhascpu on 5/3/2010 9:35:34 PM , Rating: 1
First off I agree with you. Would be silly.

Though you assume incorrectly about how much badwidth is needed. On a webcam a proper algorithm (even an older one; H263) at 240*360 you can get 5-10FPS @ 26kbps. Detail is obviously not going to be crisp, but there is an AWEFUL lot more you can do with compression video, esp video of an area like the surface of Mars than many people think. I frame, motion compensation, dozens of different techniques to make an image better, and h263 is older than half the readers here! If you don't believe me, get on a dialup connection, install Netmeeting, and see how well it works.

H264 does an even better job rendering a higher SnR at the same bit-rates. I'm not saying that they should use it as a webcam, nor am I saying it would be practical, but given even half the bandwidth you're saying (128) you can have a 640*480 image at 5fps with relatively low levels of artifacts.

helps DESIGN the camera?!?
By RandomUsername3463 on 4/30/2010 11:03:54 AM , Rating: 2
Somehow I don't think James Cameron has the optics / eletronics engineering degrees necessary to design cameras. I'd say the subtitle of this article makes way more sense: "Cameron convinced NASA not to cut the 3D camera from the rover design"

By therealnickdanger on 4/30/2010 11:22:56 AM , Rating: 3
Cameron has now teamed up with NASA to help design a 3D camera that will be placed aboard the next Mars rover dubbed Curiosity

Also, Cameron has a history of designing and developing cameras for withstanding extremes. IIRC, he also helped design high-quality optics for deep water filming. If not for his money and influence, the 3-D Fusion camera system would probably never gained traction. The guy knows how to get stuff done.

RE: helps DESIGN the camera?!?
By 91TTZ on 4/30/2010 4:37:33 PM , Rating: 2
You don't need degrees to design cameras, you only need experience. I don't think he has that either, though.

RE: helps DESIGN the camera?!?
By 91TTZ on 4/30/2010 4:41:49 PM , Rating: 2
I see that another article gives the details:

Cameron is working with San Diego-based Malin Space Science Systems to build the 3D camera, which will be installed on a mast aboard Curiosity.

Malin Science Systems will be the ones building the camera. Cameron will only be giving them some input.

By Lord 666 on 4/30/2010 11:13:37 AM , Rating: 2
James Cameron, famed Director of Terminator, Titanic, and Avatar, has awarded the troubled Space Agency 1 Billion dollars to use on several upcoming projects. It is reported to include a 3D cameras for rovers and other much needed equipment. In exchange for the grant, Cameron will receive naming rights for upcoming missions along with an entire Space Shuttle once it is decommissioned.

By Nfarce on 4/30/2010 12:59:43 PM , Rating: 1
Maybe I'm the only one who finds irony in the fact that Cameron has an unapologetic wretched contempt for American capitalism, corporations, and the free market (as seen in the anti-corporate tone of Avatar) yet has no problem making billions from it.

For his own part, Mr. Cameron said he was proudly anti-corporate though not anti-American. “It’s the nature of business, it’s the nature of all the economies of the last thousand years,” he said, to “just take” what they want.

So typical of the hypocrisies coming out of the Hollywood elitists (and Washington politicians for that matter).

By Treckin on 4/30/2010 2:29:24 PM , Rating: 3
I dont care enough to respond :(

By GTVic on 5/3/2010 1:20:02 AM , Rating: 2
Maybe he could grant us with a plot and dialog not written for (or maybe by) 10-year olds in his next movie.

“Then they pop up and say ‘Hello, surprise! Give us your money or we will shut you down!' Screw them. Seriously, screw them. You can quote me on that.” -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng referencing patent trolls
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