2012 Man of the Year: Curiosity

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America is in the middle of a great age of exploration. In recent years we have sent robotic missionaries to the near Earth asteroids, to Saturn, to Mercury, to the Moon, even to the Sun. NASA currently operates 14 planetary exploration missions and others are in development. Every day brings new discoveries about the origins and nature of our solar system.

The most celebrated voyager of 2012 was the Mars rover Curiosity. He arrived at Mars at 1:32 a.m. EDT on Aug. 6. His mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and civilizations, to boldly—sorry, got carried away. What Curiosity actually aims to do is demonstrate that planetary rovers can land skillfully and exhibit significant mobility as they study the soil and geology of the red planet. You can read about his findings here. Curiosity’s journey on the surface of this alien world is scheduled to last for about two years, at which point he will wait for other robot visitors to Mars—and for his human creators to one day join him in extra-planetary exploration.