How about establishing a Moonbase first, even a small one. It would serve as the perfect testing ground for the many technologies we need for long duration spaceflight—including the opportunity to test new engines. The Moon is also close enough to abort back to Earth in the event of catastrophic failures in the "colony."
Would love to see us put people on Mars, but yeah, have to agree with this. By comparison surely establishing a Lunar settlement would be a simpler, not to mention cheaper, prospect.
Absolutely nothing wrong with contemplating what a future Mars mission would look like, and how we'd even be able to do it though. Fascinating read.