Last May, word got out that NASA had agreed to send a 3D camera to Mars on the next Rover. Director James Cameron had lobbied NASA administrator Charles Bolden for inclusion of the 3D camera, claiming a rover with a better set of eyes would help the public connect with the mission, and Bolden agreed.
However, it seems NASA is considering dropping plans to upgrade the current Mastcam camera on the Curiosity Rover because it no longer has time to test the new model.
"With the Mastcam that was installed last year and the rover's other instruments, Curiosity can accomplish its ambitious research goals," said Mars Science Laboratory Project Scientist John Grotzinger, of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena.
"Malin Space Science Systems has provided excellent, unprecedented science cameras for this mission. The possibility for a zoom-camera upgrade was very much worth pursuing, but time became too short for the levels of testing that would be needed for them to confidently replace the existing cameras. We applaud Malin Space Science Systems for their tremendous effort to deliver the zooms, and also the Mars Science Laboratory Project's investment in supporting this effort."
James Cameron, who is listed as “Mastcam Co-Investigator,” said that while it may not be Curiosity that brings 3D cameras into space, he does think the technology will feature in future missions.
"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," said Mastcam Co-Investigator James Cameron.
"In the meantime, we're certainly going to make the most of our cameras that are working so well on Curiosity right now."
While NASA is citing a shortage of times as the reason why Curiosity won't have a 3D camera on board, there are also rumors that NASA had second thoughts because of Cameron's habit for going over budget and way past deadlines with his projects. Neither NASA nor Cameron has commented on the speculation.