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Here's why Neil DeGrasse Tyson thinks it would be difficult for a company to settle Mars

  • Neil DeGrasse Tyson thinks countries are better suited to lead new space missions.
  • Making Mars habitable would require considerable leaps in geo-engineering know-how.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is known for his goal of wanting to send a crewed mission to the red planet by 2024. But Neil DeGrasse Tyson told CNBC that countries are better suited to incur the massive costs and risks of exploring Mars first.

"People are thinking, especially the press are thinking, he is going to be the first to go to Mars," Tyson told CNBC's "Squawk Box." "And that as an exercise for a business to conduct doesn't have any obvious return on investment."

In the past, countries have been typically the first to make the most ambitious plans for space exploration, since they do not have the same pressure to make returns on their investment in the short term. NASA has its own goal of sending humans to Mars by the 2030s.

A scene from the film The Martian starring Matt Damon.
Source: 20th Century Fox
A scene from the film The Martian starring Matt Damon.

Tyson, who is director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York and host of the TV show "Star Talk," added that the Martian environment is not hospitable to human habitation now, and making it so would require some pretty serious leaps in technology.

In fact, he said, the knowledge we would have to amass to make the Martian environment habitable would likely be enough to solve a great many environmental problems on Earth.

Indeed, some researchers have pointed out how dangerous Mars might be. A paper published in Nature Scientific Reports in May found Mars missions would carry a significantly higher cancer risk than some previous models have found.

Musk is scheduled to give a presentation at the International Astronautical Congress on Friday.

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