The lab technician who can't cobble together an serviceable lab mostly from tin cans and chewing gum is barely worthy of the name. Sure, you probably can't build an electron microscope or mass spectrometer that way, but even century-old equivalent equipment can get a *lot* done, and most of that is not terribly difficult to make. Couple that with a few choice pieces of compact, versatile high-tech equipment and you can get an immense amount of work done. Heck, cannibalize Opportunity for equipment, or even just bring it pre-prepared samples for analysis and you'd increase the speed of research by an order of magnitude or two. Add a halfway decent 3d printer and recycler for convenience and you've got a lab that would Edison weep with jealousy.
As for the various landers, sure they got a little air time, but how may non-geeks did you hear actually talking about them?
As for the expense of landing stuff once you get it to Mars (I'm presuming you're being facetious about the difficulty of orbital capture, it's the same basic maneuver as engaged to leave Earth's orbit), that's not actually that bad, we've got a lot of practice and are pulling it off fully autonomously with increasingly few resources. Mars has plenty of atmosphere for aerobraking from orbital velocities to virtually eliminate fuel consumption, and if Musk and crew can get the Falcon XX landing reliably here it shouldn't be any more difficult to do the same on Mars. And if you presume an automated cargo flight that lands with equipment before the crew arrives then you can increase the cargo drastically at the same cost by using the interplanetary transport network, building supplies mostly don't care if they get radiation bombarded for a couple extra years in transit, and getting to Mars is only slightly more energy-intensive than getting to orbit.