Warren Ellis -- Bending Mars
Is putting humans on Mars important? Yes. Humans need land to live on, and, in a dynamic environment, they need land to move to. Closed systems are bad because they remove options. A single planet is a closed system. And the thing about land is, as a history teacher of mine used to say, they don’t make it anymore.
Put aside the grim meathook future of our coming environmental doom for a moment. What if something drops on us? What if some natural freak event like a sequence of volcanic incidents drops us into faux-nuclear winter? We’ve come close to that before, in the 1880’s. What if something no-one ever thought of happens to make human life no longer viable on this planet? Do we just shrug and say fuckit?
I believe that exploration is necessary to the human spirit. But even if you don’t share that particular delusion, I think most people would agree that any kind of extinction is bad. Except maybe for dogs.
Mars is the best local option for setting up a colony and, eventually, a second life for humanity. It’s a bit of a crap option: no magnetic field to speak of, cold as hell, and currently no guarantees of usable water. But Venus is a shithole, Mercury’s a suicide trip and the Jovian system is a radiation trap. Forget everything you heard about asteroid habitats, it’s bullshit. Right now, it’s Mars or an extrasolar planet, and an exoplanet is going to stay out of our reach, barring a dramatic breakthrough in propulsion engineering, for at least fifty years.