James Cameron has taken Sigourney Weaver and audiences to the hostile planet LV-426 in Aliens and, more recently, to the beautiful phosphorescent moon Pandora in Avatar. Now the Oscar-winning director wants to boldly go where no director has literally gone before: Mars. Cameron is helping to build a 3D camera atop Curiosity, the next-generation rover mission that is set to launch to the red planet next year.
So how did the Hollywood hotshot come to work with NASA? It seems that Pasadena’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory intended to mount a 3D camera on Curiosity but scaled back its plans in 2007 because the flagship mission had gone over budget and was behind schedule. Cameron buzzed NASA administrator Charles Bolden and lobbied for inclusion of a 3D camera in January, arguing that the public will connect with the mission more if the rover is equipped with a better set of eyes. Bolden agreed (you don’t say no to the self-proclaimed “King of the World”), and now Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego is building the 3D rover camera with Cameron officially listed as co-investigator.
With the space shuttle program winding down and NASA having become the government’s punching bag, people have looked to the stars in movies instead of rallying behind actual space missions in recent years. Maybe Cameron’s mission to Mars will change all that once moviegoers can explore the Martian landscape in 3D at an IMAX theater and, later, on 3D Blu-ray.