In the online show Pioneer One, part of the premise is that decades ago the USSR sent a secret expedition to Mars. Setting aside the problems of keeping such a feat a secret for decades, this seems unlikely to me. Did we have the technology decades ago (back when the space race was going on) to safely transport people to Mars? Ignore the difficulty of bringing people back, as the mission in the show seems to be a one-way trip.
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That is a book written by Robert Zubrin and David Baker called the Case for Mars, detailing a plan to go to Mars called the Mars Direct plan. It uses current space propulsion technology. A slightly modified version of it was the plan that NASA was, in theory, working on implementing with George Bush's space vision. I haven't checked, but it's probably been killed by now.
All or most of the technology used in the plan was available in the '70s. Until a decade or so ago, we'd basically stagnated in human space flight. And we still haven't made very much progress since then. Must of what we're still using is 1970s era technology, sadly.
We have the technology, and have for some time, to send people into orbit, along a calculated trajectory. We have been able to calculate the trajectories of the planets in our solar system with the required level of precision.
We have the technology to purify/recycle air and water for long enough, given a large enough vehicle (to hold the supplies).
We can land in an earth-like atmosphere, though not with absolute precision.
The problem would occur during the actual landing on the surface of the planet - I don't believe the Russians had the technology even 20 years ago to do a controlled ground landing in atmosphere (especially atmosphere we don't know much about).
Controlled ground landings are difficult, requiring careful entry vectors, careful study of the atmospheric conditions, and a well-prepared landing surface. Mars would have none of those.
They could reach it and orbit it, yes, but it would take a while to get there. By the time they touched down (if they survived re-entry) their legs would be weaker than jelly, their bones would be brittle as 75-year old men's, and they'd have to set up an environment that could support human life before their limited air supplies ran out.
Then they'd have to deal with the