Yes, NASA scientists are using these trials to prepare to send a manned mission to Mars. The purpose of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration is to explore space and aeronautics, as its name suggests. Projects, trials, and research must be approved before they are attempted. A project whose purpose is to practice and learn about living on Mars through a simulation would not be approved unless the information would be used later. This information would likely only be used later if NASA plans to send a manned mission to Mars.
NASA will send a manned mission to Mars, even though we have much more important things to do in this country. The US government is way too competitive to let other countries get far ahead of us in space missions. I think we will see a mission within the next few years.
Yes, NASA is investing a great deal of money and effort into preparations for a manned mission to Mars. It's the next logical step for space exploration for humans. We've seen the moon, next comes our nearby neighbor, Mars. There is hope that Mars can be transformed to be habitable some day.
We have been curious about Mars for a very long time. It seems inevitable that we will investigate the red planet at some point, when technology and funding allow it. Many astronauts would see this as a career-defining opportunity and would be anxious to go, and the public would be supportive as well.