I admire Elon Musk. But he's dead wrong. Neil Degrasse Tyson is right.
I admire Neil Degrasse Tyson, but he's basically shilling for NASA. (I like NASA, more on their limits below.) And he is over simplifying what people's motivations where.
As others have pointed out, taking your company public means surrendering a significant amount of control over the long term. Board members and share holders like revenue. It's all about the next quarter. They don't like pet projects that are giant money sinks without the remote possibility of a return. Persist on that path post-IPO Elon, and watch yourself be fired from your own company, ala Steve Jobs.
Good thing Elon Musk has stated over and over that he won't take SpaceX public until all the long term development is done, specifically for those reasons.
NDGT is spot on the issue of exploration. It takes a government interested in (mostly) pure science without profit motivation.
You want to put people on Mars? I'll tell you what puts people on Mars - the U.S. government thumbing their nose in the face of Chinese ascendancy - Ala Cold War 2: Space Boogaloo.
Let the government, or team of governments blow tax dollars on building Mars mission tech. That tech will filter down to private enterprise years later, so the next generation of Elon Musks can farm minerals off asteroids, or some other future commercial endeavor.
NASA lives and dies by congressional funding and congressional funding is fickle. NASA has done great things, but those days are over and where basically a fluke. President's come in, they say they want to return to the Moon or go to Mars but they don't push congress to fund a coherent plan. Next president comes in, new plan, still not funded. When congress does fund something, the funding is based on getting jobs in their own districts not on what actually makes sense from an engineering standpoint. Look into the history of the "Space Launch System" (that's the rocket congress wants NASA to build that would be used to send people to Mars.) It's mandated that it must use components from Space Shuttle technology. In the space industry, the Space Launch System is known as "the rocket to nowhere." NASA's history is littered with cancelled projects due to the fickleness of Presidents and Congress.
At this point in history, the US Congress is incapable of funding an expensive and on going coherent space program. I don't see that changing in the next twenty years. NASA may land a man on Mars in the 2030s, but I doubt it. But even if NASA does land a human on Mars in the 2030s, they are not working on the technologies, infrastructure and transportation systems to put a colony there. If NASA puts humans on Mars, it will be just like when we landed on the Moon. Plant a flag, shout "we're #1", and then go home.
Elon is overreaching with this.
No, he's reaching. Something I wish more people would do even though they may fail.
Long live the oligarchy (and how sad is it that is our best hope?)