Like all readers of science fiction, I grew up dreaming about the colonization of Mars. I read all of the Martian sf out there and hoped to someday see Von Braun’s illustrations of a trip to Mars become reality.
Now that we’ve had a number of landers on Mars and the rovers and orbital observers hovering over the Red Planet for years, I’ve come to the conclusion that the place is just a hellish ball of rock not worthy of much attention at all.
The atmosphere is just the tiniest fraction of the Earth’s. And what “air” exists there is extremely toxic. The place has been oxidizing for billions of years, and who knows how poisonous even the soil may be. It may be that the very dirt will react negatively with whatever moisture we bring with us.
And dry! Great Jove, the place is drier than the driest spot on Earth. The entire planet is so cold and so dry that microscopic bits of the toxic soil is wafted into the air in global storms of dust so fine that it’s practically on a kind of molecular level. There’d be no way to even filter that shit! And so cold that carbon dioxide freezes out as a solid onto the surface of the planet from pole to pole.
In addition, Mars seems to be geologically inactive, and has been for quite some time. There are no plate tectonics going on, no current volcanism, and only a boring cycle of airborne sedimentation taking place for the past couple billion years.
I hate to say it, but fuck Mars. As a stopping-off point, it may be worthwhile as a base. But as far as colonizing that hideously cold and dry turdball—it’s a pipe dream.