So my proposal is as follows: If we’ve found ice, or even better, liquid water on Mars, lets take advantage of it right away. Lets get started tomorrow. Granted, we don’t have the technology right now to get a swarm of robots on that dirtball building CO2 pumps but we could certainly contaminate Mars with some germs, right? We probably have already, but I’m talking about a concentrated effort.

Specifically we should figure out which microbe can thrive in the martian environment. Oh wait, we have. Then we cram as much extra information as we’ve got into this microbe’s DNA. Not one individual microbe, no, we engineer as many different strains as it takes. We seed Mars with a wealth of genetic information… either it will work, and we’ll have created alien life (our duty if we are alone in the universe), or it won’t and we’ll be no worse off… The extra DNA would serve double duty – to facilitate useful mutations and to preserve the ‘work’ which has been done through evolution on our planet. Forget looking for life on Mars – just put some there.