Already, researchers are hard at work trying to understand what it would take to succeed in such a mission. One of those is Dr Alexander Kumar, based at the Concordia research station in the centre of Antarctica, a place so remote - and so cold - that it is only possible to get in and out for three months of the year.
He is trying to understand the physical and psychological effects of human space travel, particularly the role of extreme isolation. BBC Future spoke to Dr Kumar about life at the station and how his stay may be the fore runner for a manned mission to the red Planet.
Can you describe where you are now?
I am in a place I have come to call ‘White Mars’ - the heart of Antarctica.
It is the coldest, darkest and most extreme environment on our planet. The outside temperature has again fallen below -80C (-112F) or -99.9C (-148F) with wind chill - the extreme limit of its scale. Inside, the window is frozen over, entombed with ice and it remains dark outside, as it has done so 24 hours a day for the past three months. And we are at an equivalent altitude of 3800m above sea level, making it difficult to breathe.
We are completely alone and isolated here from February to November. The French refer to people who over-winter here as 'Hivernauts', but, unlike astronauts, we have no 'mission control'.
Concordia base is unique in that it is jointly run by the French Polar Institute and Italian Antarctic Programme. It consists of two cylindrical, three-story towers – a shape that stirs your imagination to think they could have arrived within a Saturn V rocket. It is strange to refer to it at home, but that is how it has come to feel. The base is our life-support system in a region where there is nothing but ice for more than 1,000km (700 miles) in most directions.
What do you do there?
I am the only British member of a European crew of 13 currently living at Concordia station. I am responsible for assessing documenting - and treating where necessary - any ailments in the mind or body. I have to expect the unexpected, prepare myself for anything and when it arrives deal with it onsite.
Alongside my role as the station doctor, I am conducting research for the European Space Agency’s Human Spaceflight programme, investigating the physiological and psychological effects of living in isolation at this extreme. My research will help to understand how far we can push humans, particularly in regard to extreme physiology and psychology. The work may one-day help shape a manned mission to Mars, and more importantly, see it safely return.
What can Antarctica teach us about Mars?
Living here is the closest anyone can come to living on the surface of another planet. I have also coined the term Planet Concordia to describe this feeling. Despite significant differences in surface gravity and atmospheric pressure between Antarctica and the Polar Regions on Mars, the average Martian surface temperature is -55C (-67F), similar to our extreme cold temperatures at Concordia.
Our crew has been completely isolated since February. We are more isolated from civilization than the astronauts living onboard the International Space Station. It is impossible for us to leave the base until mid-November.
Alongside studying and reacting to changes in crew dynamics, we have to deal with any day to day challenges involving life-support-system maintenance and equipment failure and breakdown. We have to be completely self-sufficient. All our food is canned, tinned, dried and prepackaged - there is no method of delivery here during winter. We are alone - the same as any Mars Mission would be.