Exploring distant worlds is a slow, tricky business. Right now, rovers and landers are our best bet, but both suffer from the same shortfall: low mobility. A new class of exploratory craft that hops could accomplish in a few days what it's taken rovers years.
The new vehicle is called a "hopper" over at Draper Labs, and for the reason you'd expect: it uses ducted fan propulsion system to lift itself off of the ground, with cold jets for steering, and leaps miles away. By comparison, Draper Labs says that "NASA's Spirit and Opportunity have traveled a total of just under 20 miles since landing on Mars in January 2004," meaning the hoppers could surpass that figure in just a few days.
There is, of course, concerns with the hopper design. Chief among them is fuel. The rovers are so slow precisely because they have to rely on batteries which have to be light enough — which means less power — to survive landing on Mars and then there has to be a way to charge them.
Still, the hopper design isn't without merit. The Phoenix lander, for instance, never moved from its spot and could only mind where it landed. If it integrated the hopper's maneuverability, it could have jumped around to different mining spots before losing the ability to operate.