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Can someone explain why SpaceX ditched their plans for powered landing on Dragon spacecraft? Was it fuel constraints? Or maybe the burden of testing and certifying the landing system for NASA?

More importantly, could they technically land Dragon if they fit it with legs (assuming those worked flawlessly and assuming NASA didn’t object)? Or did the whole concept just prove technically unfeasible?

They seemed very excited and optimistic about powered landings years ago. What happened?

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Elon Musk can explain.

“The reason we decided not to pursue (powered landings) heavily is it would have taken a tremendous amount of effort to qualify that for safety, particularly for crew transport,” Musk said. “And then there was a time when I thought that the Dragon approach to landing on Mars, where you’ve got a base heat shield and side-mounted thrusters, would be the right way to land on Mars, but now I’m pretty confident that is not the right way, and that there’s a far better approach.”

Musk did not elaborate on the new concept for landing on Mars.

Spaceflight Now

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    $\begingroup$ That new concept he didn't elaborate on was probably the belly flop maneuver. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 26, 2021 at 15:25
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks! This is super helpful. I just wish Elon Musk would say "we" and not "I" more often. How does his team feel about the dude always speaking as if he alone had come up with all their ideas and done all their work? Gets old seeing the money guy always taking all the credit just for owning the company. His money is nothing without his team. $\endgroup$
    – user39728
    Commented Apr 26, 2021 at 18:00
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    $\begingroup$ @user39728 it's the way of cult leaders. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 26, 2021 at 18:17
  • $\begingroup$ Yep! And I get the excitement he generates. No one else has made it a point to put us on the moon or Mars. But then, there's a whole team working---overworking, really---to make that happen. They need to be recognized because it's their collective achievement, not Elon Musk's alone. The same way that achievement wouldn't exist without Musk's and ultimately the taxpayer's investment, it wouldn't exist without that team's hard work. It's "we", Elon, not "I". $\endgroup$
    – user39728
    Commented Apr 26, 2021 at 18:29