Living on Mars — which Elon Musk predicts we’ll do in some form by 2024 — will no doubt pose hardships and challenges. And there’s going to be plenty of manual labor. It’s prohibitively expensive to ship construction supplies 34 million miles, so the first settlers will do what settlers have always done: build by hand, with local materials. Sure, those made-from-regolith bricks and water-based windows will probably be 3-D printed, but those materials will still need moving and stacking by hand. Exploring and surveying the planet, doing geological research, and locating ideal habitation areas will involve manual labor, too.
This is nothing new for humans. We’ve built one world by hand, we can probably build another — even in harsh UV light, subzero temperatures, and a lethally low-pressure atmosphere. But if opposable thumbs were key to the evolution of human civilization, and humanity can’t be naked against the Martian elements, then it’s an unexpected and unglamorous factor that will determine whether or not we succeed: gloves.