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"... plans to send just a small group of people who would build a transparent dome that could be pressurized so that they could farm on Martian soil . . ."

What? Can you do that?

Well, yes, though admittedly not without some help:


You absolutely can. Martian soil is surprisingly very rich, even by Earth's standards.

I highly recommend Robert Zubrin's "The Case for Mars" - you'll be surprised what else is possible on Mars with current technology:


Also, TA Heppenheimer's Colonies in Space has a dandy compilation chapter on research on agriculture in enclosed environments. ("Up on the farm")


Most of what's talked about in that chapter will also be possible on Mars.

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