Do you think we will ever find life on extraterrestrial planets in our life time. That would be an amazing discovery to live to see.
We need to terraform it. Is that a real thing? Or is that just in Marvel comics? We need to terraform it.
Ive read brief plans to terraform mars... typically involving a timespan of over 1000 years before human habitation is viable. It's hard to get politicians thinking ahead further than the next election, 1000 years is a bit of a stretch!
I'm not sure how much hope there is for terraforming a planet with virtually no magnetosphere. Earth is sheltered from the solar wind by its magnetosphere which acts kind of like a magnet shell deflecting almost all of the radiation away from the surface. Any atmosphere created by terraforming would eventually be blown away by the solar wind. And any creatures on the surface would be very unusual by our standards because they'd have to be impervious to the solar radiation that our magnetosphere protects us from.
Terraforming is a theoretical possibility. With Mars we would have to somehow bulk up the atmosphere (so that we could go outside with just an oxygen mask, not a full blown pressure suit). We could do it by melting the ice caps, water and CO2, both very good greenhouse gases, so we might manage to warm it up.
The biggest problem after that would be somehow restoring Mars' electromagnetic field so every single little solar storm doesn't cook peoples' gonads.
As for the other question, it's hard to say whether we will or won't, Adam, because we don't really have a good idea of how common life ought to be. In large part that's because we don't know how it originated. I suspect we'll have plausible theories (at the very least) on that subject in the next couple of decades, at which point we can say life either is/is not probable given early-earth-like conditions. And by then we ought to have a good read on how common "early-earth-like conditions" are. (By the way "early-earth-like" conditions are not like what you are experiencing right now while reading this sentence. Too much oxygen just for one thing.)
I believe it will be necessary for people to go look to truly settle the question. Probes can do a lot but they can't do something to answer the next question to raise. We are going to need to drill, then use microscopes on what we see.
"they can't do something to answer the next question that their findings raise." (correction in bold)
we are going to need to trill or dig, a lot deeper than a couple of inches then use microscopes...
Anyone we send there is going to be spending a lot of time underground as well. Between the storms and the radiation exposure, we'd probably have to send robot diggers ahead to make a cave system. In fact, it might be best not to send people there at all and just use robots for anything we want to do there.
If so then thickening the atmosphere would suffice for terraforming, since Low Earth Orbit is below the effect of the protective magnetic field, and the only difference at that point is the atmosphere. We would have to ensure it has an ozone layer, though.
But I believe there is a caveat here; how bad does it get when a CME hits Mars? Has Curiousity experienced one of those?
A CME was my first thought as well. I think a few inches of water provide adequate protection, and if Mars has water we can use, the explorers can live in a terrarium inside an aquarium, but talk about cabin fever. It'd be almost like living in Antactic winter year round, pretty much trapped indoors except for quick scurries outside in heavy and restrictive clothing. No suit provides much protection from radiation.
Anyway, if by "terraforming" is meant giving it enough of an atmosphere to sustain life, it won't be any Earth life, except perhaps from some very hardy single-celled critters. Certainly no grass or trees. And then there's the matter of the lack of a magnetosphere, meaning that the atmosphere would be blown off into space by the solar wind.
Face it, Mars will always be a kind of desert. I'm not sure it's worth the considerable effort of attempting to terraform it.