We will do this. We will send people to live and work on Mars. The first explorations will be just that, as they were when we first pushed westward from the original thirteen colonies; a lot of testing and trial and hopefully not too many errors as we figure out how to colonize the red planet.
It seems likely that we will, or rather robots will since they can work in any atmosphere, construct something akin to geodesic domes to recreate the atmosphere on earth. With the advances in 3D printing, we may send up robotic 3D printers that will create a clear acrylic (or a yet to be developed material) dome or series of domes in which we'll live. This new material will be strong enough to withstand the impact of debris from space and shield us from the sun's ultraviolet rays; it may even be a self-healing material if there is a rupture or penetration of the dome.
Inside this dome, we'll have a constant atmosphere with oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, and other inert gasses necessary to sustain human life and the plants and animals needed to make a lifetime on Mars bearable. The scientific and engineering advances we'll see as this unfolds over the next fifty to one hundred years are almost unimaginable right now, but they will be historic.
The greatest danger we will face is any breach of our protective dome that exposes us to the toxic atmosphere of Mars. The atmosphere of Mars is about 100 times thinner than Earth's, and it is 95 percent carbon dioxide. The composition of the Martian atmosphere is:
Mars's thin atmosphere and its greater distance from the sun mean that Mars is much colder than Earth. The average temperature is about minus 80 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 60 degrees Celsius). However, it can vary from minus 195 F (minus 125 C) near the poles during the winter to as much as a comfortable 70 F (20 C) at midday near the equator.
It is believed that a few billion years ago, the Martian atmosphere was thicker and supported the existence of water and perhaps lifeforms as we know them. The leading theory is that Mars' light gravity, coupled with its lack of global magnetic field, left the atmosphere vulnerable to pressure from the solar wind, the constant stream of particles coming from the sun. Over millions of years, the sun's pressure stripped the lighter molecules from the atmosphere, thinning it out.
Now, the shocker! We are literally living in a biosphere that supports human life. Scientists often agree that there are a few key ingredients needed for life to exist on earth, but much debate remains as to what limits there actually might be on life. Even Earth hosts some strange creatures that live in extreme environments. Here's what makes life able to thrive on our home planet (and likely for alien life to arise on other worlds):
Water: You need some liquid, any place where molecules can react.
Energy: Life needs energy. Without energy, virtually nothing would happen. The most obvious energy source is a planet or moon's host star, as is the case on Earth, where sunlight drives photosynthesis in plants.
Time: Scientists have argued that habitable worlds need stars that can live at least several billion years, long enough for life to evolve, as was the case on Earth. Some stars only live a few million years before dying.
Bonus features: Other factors for why life succeeded on Earth include how little variation is in our sun's radiation compared with more volatile stars, how our planet has a magnetic field that protects us from any storms of charged particles from the sun. Violent bursts of radiation could have scoured life from Earth in its early, fragile stages.
Earth remains the only known planet to host life due to a unique combination of factors. However, continued monitoring of alien worlds might one day change that by finding other planets that share these attributes or by discovering different ways life has blossomed in the universe.
So, why all this gibberish about Mars and life on earth? We are living on Mars! We are as vulnerable here on earth as if we were in that bubble on Mars. The sun that is such an excellent energy source, is also a killer. We are protected by an atmosphere that shields us from the suns' radiation. We have water to sustain life. We have all this crap going on around us that makes it possible for us to exist, and so far, this is the only freaking place we can ever live.
Time? How much more time do we have? Have we already shot a hole in our atmosphere that will be the death of us? Have we polluted our oceans and our groundwater to the point of no return? Remember, we have nowhere to go if we screw up the only home in the universe that can keep us alive.
We, the collective we all around the world, had better get with the program. This planet, our solar system, and the entire universe are marching on with us or without us; it doesn't really give a shit about us. We are the problem, and we are the only ones that can save ourselves.
Discussing life, politics, and philosophy in the language of the bar.