SpaceX CEO Elon Musk wants to warm the Red Planet’s atmosphere by dropping nuclear bombs on Mars’ icy poles. The South African billionaire believes doing so can unlock frozen carbon dioxide into Mars’s paper-thin atmosphere to trigger a greenhouse effect. Mr Musk tweeted about the idea earlier in August this year and even spoke about it on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert in 2015. The controversial idea was welcomed by SpaceX fans and even made its way onto officials SpaceX merchandise with the message “nuke Mars”.
But a scientist who specialises in various forms of radiation fears nuking Mars would not bring about the desired effect.
Dr Weronika Śliwa, head of the Copernicus Science Centre Planetarium in Warsaw, Poland, questioned the science behind the plan.
She told Onet.pl: “It is a concept. Unfortunately, you have to admit it is not a very realistic one for a very prosaic reason.
“That is because there is simply too little carbon dioxide in the Martian polar caps, according to estimates by scientists working on Mars.
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“Even if it was 100 percent released, then the Martian atmosphere would still be many times thinner than Earth’s and temperatures would not rise to a sufficient degree.”
Dr Śliwa argued terraforming planets to resemble our homeworld is a “dream”.
Scientists believe the Red Planet looked more like Earth millions of years ago, with a hot and humid environment, oceans and potentially even microbial life.
Today, however, Mars is a desolate and barren world scorched by radiation and chilled by low temperatures.
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The scientist said: “The Sun is gradually, slowly, growing hotter and in time will reach a temperature for the surface of Mars to be much higher than it is today, much closer to the surface temperatures of Earth.”
The natural warming should help release additional carbon dioxide into the atmosphere to further warm Mars.
Terraforming the planet Mars would stop future colonisers from having to constantly seek indoor shelter.
Future Moon colonisers face a similar issue, where the lack of atmosphere exposes lunar surface activates to harsh solar radiation and meteorite strikes.