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There is some news that I've just read about in the Pod Bay SE chat room:

The news items include a lot of background and interpretation and speculation and future-predicting and it's hard for me to roll all of that back and identify just the bare technical facts.

Is propulsive landing of a Red Dragon capsule on Mars more difficult than originally thought for some technical reason, or is it just that the goal is less attractive for logistic, business, or long-range planning types of reasons?

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Red Dragon was intended to piggyback on the effort to develop and qualify Dragon for propulsive landings on Earth. The qualification hit a snag: NASA requirements for human-rating the propulsive landing system were so stringent that SpaceX decided they didn't want to spend the time and money to meet those requirements.

That left development of the landing system incomplete. They'd have to finish the landing system for Red Dragon alone, which would make Red Dragon a much more expensive mission.

Reading between the lines, SpaceX wants to focus its development resources on their Interplanetary Transport System (ITS/BFR) as soon as possible, and not spend time on one-off missions like Red Dragon.

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  • $\begingroup$ OK this is exactly the kind of answer I was looking for. Thanks! $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jul 28 '17 at 13:33
  • $\begingroup$ I like this answer but I want to see a source for the first paragraph. $\endgroup$ – Russell Borogove Jul 28 '17 at 13:59
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    $\begingroup$ I've added links. The source is basically the Youtube video in the question, of a speech given by Musk at the International Space Station Research and Development Conference. $\endgroup$ – Hobbes Jul 28 '17 at 15:27
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Red Dragon was an attempt to get an early mission to Mars using off the shelf hardware. That is, assuming Dragon V2 was developed and off the shelf. Sure needed modifications but the core functionality was there.

NASA and SpaceX decided in the development of Dragon V2 to use only parachute landings, and not powered landings. Thus no landing legs popping through the heat shield.

Thus there no longer is an off the shelf vehicle that has most of the core functionality

Why did they decide? That is a different and complicated question to answer.

The NASA standards for human rating were so difficult and it was not clear that for the number of possible landings they would ever do with Dragon V2 that it was worth the costs.

There was some debate as to whether there was an issue with legs going through the heat shield, or if it was just the overall NASA standards.

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  • $\begingroup$ I've asked "Is propulsive landing of a Red Dragon capsule on Mars more difficult than originally thought for some technical reason, or is it just that the goal is less attractive for logistic, business, or long-range planning types of reasons?" so no, it's not a different question, it's this question! $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jul 28 '17 at 13:15
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    $\begingroup$ Now that you have your "SpaceX gold star", you can kick back a bit and take a little more time to answer SpaceX-tagged questions. Oh, I've added "and why?" to the title to better match the body of the question. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jul 28 '17 at 13:17
  • $\begingroup$ Simply put, is it harder than they thought? $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jul 28 '17 at 13:24

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