"no one knows how to manufacture an entire atmosphere."Well they only need breathable air in their habitats and suits when not in habitats. We certainly know how to fill tanks with gas and and release it to keep a proper mixture at an appropriate pressure and temperature. Continuing to set up another strawman:
"On Mars, the best we can expect is a crude habitat, erected by robots."Ridiculous. They have the resources of an entire, minerally diverse, planet.
[Problems include:] carrying out medical and equipment repair procedures they know nothing about.Unless of course they have a bit of training before they go. They don't have to be perfect, just good enough.
What works for them definitely won't scale to house 1 million people comfortably enough for them to want to spend the rest of their lives there.Is strawmen the only way he knows to argue? Has this guy ever met humans? Does he not know they, unlike most pre-written software for robots, adapt their environment as a normal human behavior? What works at first doesn't all have to scale up. They can apply new tricks as they go.
...for a true Martian metropolis to exist, in which humans and other earthly life would not merely survive but thrive, we would need to somehow replace Mars's inhospitable atmosphere with one that mirrors our own.No. We don't. He just repeated the first scarecrow. Let's skip the rest of the terraforming B.S. and go right to the last line...
No one wants to carry an oxygen tank for a night on the town.The first and only reasonable thing said in the entire article. Of course they won't. Most martians will spend their entire lives not wearing space suits. If you can't imagine how you just aren't cut out to be a martian. Walking in suits on mars will be something teenagers do to get merit badges in their scouting programs. Adults will only put on suits if the rovers find something worth going out for which will be rare. Mars scenery will mostly be appreciated while working in shirtsleeve gardens that take advantage of martian sunlight.
Something a bit more optimistic.