The Top 10 Science Stories of 2012

A devastating storm, a new phase of Mars exploration, a recipe for a pandemic flu--these and other events highlight the year in science and technology

The Top 10 Science Stories of 2012, Curiosity Rover, Mars
Image illustration by Don Foley

NASA’s Curiosity Rover Lands on Mars

In 2012 Mars received a new six-wheeled visitor. NASA’s Curiosity rover—the biggest, most sophisticated explorer of its kind—landed safely on the Red Planet in August. The successful touchdown capped an elaborate landing sequence that had been dubbed “seven minutes of terror” and made mini-celebrities out of mission engineers (notably flight director Bobak Ferdowsi, aka the “Mohawk guy”).

Curiosity’s roughly two-year mission on Mars has only just begun—the rover is still trying out some of its instruments for the first time. But already the rover has found evidence of an ancient riverbed and has detected tantalizing but unconfirmed hints of Martian carbon (the stuff of life on Earth) in the soil. Soon Curiosity will begin to explore Mount Sharp, a towering stack of sedimentary layers that should provide clues to the conditions that prevailed on ancient Mars, when water flowed more freely. —John Matson

» In-Depth Report: NASA’s Curiosity Rover Touches Down on Mars

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