NASA had visited Mars but never like this. Curiosity, which landed in Gale Crater in August, is a 1-ton, SUV-size Mars car with more scientific instrumentation—10 times as much, by weight—than ever sent to the Red Planet before. But it was how it got there that really made the machine sublimely cool: the rover was lowered to the ground on cables by a hovering capsule, touching down balletically in preparation for two years of exploration.
Best Inventions of the Year 2012
Robots, rovers and the rest of 2012's most important innovations, from the affordable to the extreme
The Curiosity Rover
Price: $2.5 billion
Free - $150
$200 - $500