since the vexplorer camera is only using the microcontroller for power, would it be possible to set it into a vexred microcontroller and be able to use it still, or do we have to yank out the vexplorer microcontroller and power pack just to use the camera on a vexred bot? if the latter is the necessary case, why didnt vex just make a camera that worked on vexred?

Here is what the page about the camera says:
“See through your robot’s eyes with the wireless Vex Color Camera Kit. Mount the Camera on your robot and connect the Receiver to any television to see and hear from your robot’s point-of-view via the 2.4 GHz camera link. Provides a color picture, and audio necessary for a spy-bot mission. Can be used with VexRed or VexBlue controllers. This is the same camera included in the Vex Robotics Vexplorer.”

You can power it off the Vex Microcontroller, no problem. This operation is described in the Camera Kit Instructions.