Chris McKay, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center, maintains that the only plausible economic motivation for a Martian colony is for it to serve as a government base, downplaying the possibility of either tourism or mining operations playing that role.
“The analogy here is the Antarctic bases from 1955 to about 1990,” he told Futurism. “During this time virtually all Antarctic bases were [government] science research bases in accordance with the Antarctic Treaty. After ~1990 tourism started to grow. Now there are tourist bases in Antarctica that are not [government] science research bases.”
Settling on Mars isn’t going to make anyone rich, and that’s going to make it more difficult to accrue the money required for such an expensive project. Still, despite the fact that a fully-fledged colony might not be the wisest direction for a prospective space program, there’s still plenty we could learn from the planet.