Make no mistake: life on Mars is not little green men. If life exists, it is bacteria that make their living off the sparse Martian environment. If it exists, Martian life will probably remind us of organisms that live deep in frozen lakes in Antarctica.
Certainly, there is no replacement for Earth, and Mars will never be a replacement for Earth. But we do need to move forward, and mission proposals, such as BOLD, will be the first step toward a grand vision.
When it comes to Mars exploration, the U.S. has been there, done that--with robotic rovers. But while many proposals have been put forth for sending astronauts to the Red Planet, none has gotten the green light. Yet.
NASA launches have become so routine that the media barely take notice. After 125 missions, perhaps this is to be expected. We can get used to almost anything, taking for granted what our energy, ingenuity, and dreams have granted us.