The engineering hurdles it cleared to land put Curiosity light years ahead of past rovers. But with a budget on the chopping block, NASA needed to be creative to get people excited about space again. And it looks like it's doing just that.
The Mars race is about human survival and understanding our place in a vast and terrifyingly beautiful universe. And the stories of its athletes (mathletes?) should be world-class, because they accomplish near-impossible tasks on a cosmic scale -- the hardest sport you could ever compete in.