Let's Nuke Mars! Says Elon Musk

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Let's Nuke Mars! Says Elon Musk

SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk said last month that the perfect way to heat Mars for human habitation is by dropping nucelear bombs on it; recently, he extrapolated on that plan.

The best villains, whether in literature, films, comics, or video games, are the ones with the good ideas. The evil geniuses or warlords who are striving to bring peace to the world; or whose grand schemes do a lot of good, even if the methods themselves are morally dubious.

Enter Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla and all-around Tony Stark kind of guy - or maybe a Lex Luthor. In an interview last month with Stephen Colbert, Musk was talking about the future of human habitation on Mars. He says one key piece of the puzzle is warming up the red planet - and how does he suggest we do that? By dropping nuclear weapons over the poles.

More recently, he explained the plan a little more at an event in New York City.

"What I was talking about," said Musk, "was having a series of very large, by our standards, but very small, by calamity standards, essentially having two tiny pulsing suns over the poles. They're really above the planet. Not on the planet."

"So if you have two basically tiny suns over the pole that would warm up the planet," he went on. "Then you would gasify frozen carbon dioxide, thicken the atmosphere and warm up the water and all of that would have a greenhouse effect. Have a cascading effect to continue warming up the planet."

Eventually, the planet would continue to warm itself.

Musk has also famously said, "I would like to die on Mars - just not on impact."

Of course, what he is describing would actually work; who knows how long it would take, but if we were ever to terraform Mars, heating it up and forming an atmosphere are two important steps.

But we still don't know enough about Mars. We've only just confirmed it has flowing water. There may be life on Mars (including Matt Damon) - probably nothing huge, very likely non-sentient microbes if anything - that would be affected by two nuclear explosions over the poles, and the subsequent heating that occurs.

I guess the question we need to ask ourselves is this: is Mars going to be a nature preserve? Or is Mars going to be our second home? Doesn't seem likely that we can have it both ways.

(Feel free to leave recommendations for sci-fi reads in the comments related to the terraforming of Mars, by the way. My personal favorite: the Hugo award-winning Spin, by Robert Charles Wilson.)

Source: Mashable

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The Mars Trilogy is my personal favorite Martian terraforming story, and iirc they do heat the poles to start thickening the atmosphere, but they don't use nuclear weapons to do so. Probably because radioactive fallout would spread over Mars especially quickly given the especially fine Martian sand along with extremely strong wind patterns.

Second home. A nature preserve is no good to anyone.

Wouldn't the radiation be a problem for settling down the road? Or are we speaking in terms of tens of thousands of years? Making Mars habitable is a pretty important process we should start as soon as we understand how to; I'm not sure this is the way. I could very well be wrong though.

Yay, a half dozen quotes! c:

Redlin5:
Wouldn't the radiation be a problem for settling down the road? Or are we speaking in terms of tens of thousands of years? Making Mars habitable is a pretty important process we should start as soon as we understand how to; I'm not sure this is the way. I could very well be wrong though.

You know that Hiroshima and Nagasaki are habitable now right? and have been for decades.

And people won't live at the poles they'll live closer to the equator so nuking the poles not a problem except in the cost rather than habitation risk.

P-89 Scorpion:
You know that Hiroshima and Nagasaki are habitable now right? and have been for decades.

And people won't live at the poles they'll live closer to the equator so nuking the poles not a problem except in the cost rather than habitation risk.

I know those cities are habitable, its just that the scale of these reactions to have a global effect is likely going to produce a lot of material. If the debris can be controlled into just being dumped at the poles, that's one thing. If it spreads across Mars during the process, there could be fragments strewn about in the dust for centuries.

Redlin5:

I know those cities are habitable, its just that the scale of these reactions to have a global effect is likely going to produce a lot of material. If the debris can be controlled into just being dumped at the poles, that's one thing. If it spreads across Mars during the process, there could be fragments strewn about in the dust for centuries.

Take into consideration that Fat Man and Little Boy were both technically dirty bombs (and they were just able to go BOOM) and left a lot of material behind, so clean tactical nukes would not be a huge problem.

Boris Goodenough:

Redlin5:

I know those cities are habitable, its just that the scale of these reactions to have a global effect is likely going to produce a lot of material. If the debris can be controlled into just being dumped at the poles, that's one thing. If it spreads across Mars during the process, there could be fragments strewn about in the dust for centuries.

Take into consideration that Fat Man and Little Boy were both technically dirty bombs (and they were just able to go BOOM) and left a lot of material behind, so clean tactical nukes would not be a huge problem.

Remember that it would likely take dozens per pole to start the process.

The radiation may very well be less than it is right now. Increasing the atmosphere will decrease the amount of solar and cosmic radiation reaching the surface.

Interesting, but we still need to figure out how to jump start Mar's magnetosphere before we can create an atmosphere, or it will just be blown away like the first one was (well, it wasn't completely blown away, still). Not to mention the radiation, not much point in surviving meteor showers and taking off your helmet only to die a few hours later of radiation sickness.

Now I'm a planetary-sized-electromagnet man myself, if only for the ludicrous scale involved. Alternatively we could gravity tug Phobos about, make it's trip around Mars faster and closer, maybe add to the moon's iron content. Anybody got a moon-sized iron supplement? Or a moon-sized Dai-Gun?

Meh. Maybe I'm just jaded when it comes to batshit insane space projects. Wake me up when people start seriously talking about stuff like the Orion drive or using gas giants as colony ships.

RelativityMan:
Interesting, but we still need to figure out how to jump start Mar's magnetosphere before we can create an atmosphere, or it will just be blown away like the first one was (well, it wasn't completely blown away, still). Not to mention the radiation, not much point in surviving meteor showers and taking off your helmet only to die a few hours later of radiation sickness.

Exactly this. there is no point in being able to generate a better atmosphere if it just gets stripped away by the solar wind starting the instant one begins the process
maybe if we could extinguish the sun? or am i over reaching

Second home, please. Sadly it would take a very long time to do so realistically, involving self-replicating robots mining asteroids and shooting the materials to mars for MORE robots to construct into a giant set of super-conducting rings around the planet to strengthen the planet's magnetosphere artificially.

Of course, there's no reason we can't start warming it and seeding it with oxygen producing bacteria at the same time.

Without much of an atmosphere to begin with, the heating will mostly be isolated to the poles, where you've dropped the nukes. And then it will quickly (quickly being very relative, here) cool again as it all radiates to space because there isn't sufficient atmosphere to trap the thermal energy.

I think we all know the way to warm Mars is to cover the surface with moss and cockroaches. The moss will heat the planet, the cockroaches will eat the moss, and then everyone will die!

Finally! a use for nukes that doesn't make me feel bad.

Honestly, what is there on mars to preserve? Rocks? Ice? Tiny, unthinking microbes? There's little nature to speak of, and even if there was, its benefit to us is only sentimental. Preservationism for its own sake just seems a foolish way to go here (though certainly, we could probably stand to reach and study the place as it exists now before trying to terraform it).

Good, good. Let's nuke the Mars Colonies before they could declare war on Earth.

Imre Csete:
Good, good. Let's nuke the Mars Colonies before they could declare war on Earth.

Lol, good one! To which I reply: EXOSQUAAAAD!!!!
Or will it turn out all Biker Mice From Mars-ey in the end? ;)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rR7ktkOEeFw

Er... IIRC to maintain the atmosphere on Mars one must not only melt the ice caps, but also to heat up the core, 'cause otherwise the newly refueled atmosphere will be lost the same way previous one was.

crimson5pheonix:
The Mars Trilogy is my personal favorite Martian terraforming story, and iirc they do heat the poles to start thickening the atmosphere, but they don't use nuclear weapons to do so. Probably because radioactive fallout would spread over Mars especially quickly given the especially fine Martian sand along with extremely strong wind patterns.

Neither does irradiating the water you'd like to use sound like a good idea to me.

Rastrelly:
Er... IIRC to maintain the atmosphere on Mars one must not only melt the ice caps, but also to heat up the core, 'cause otherwise the newly refueled atmosphere will be lost the same way previous one was.

Yeah that's what I wonder too. Mars' lack of a magnetic sphere means any atmosphere we'd create by terraforming would get stripped away by solar radiation. So if we can't somehow create a magnetosphere on Mars to protect it, it'll be a pretty pointless endeavor in the long run. Not to mention that our bodies aren't fond of a lot of UV-radiation.

well, that could work in theory i guess. i wonder how is he going to keep sustained fission reaction above the planet though. it has to be close enough to heat the atmosphere and gravity would be quite in force in that height. also requiring to be on poles centrifugal orbit is out of the question.

Redlin5:
Wouldn't the radiation be a problem for settling down the road? Or are we speaking in terms of tens of thousands of years? Making Mars habitable is a pretty important process we should start as soon as we understand how to; I'm not sure this is the way. I could very well be wrong though.

Modern nuclear weapons (they are really mostly hydrogen bombs nowadays though) are designed to make large denation impact, not to seed the are with radiation (those are "dirty bombs" and were never employed by anyone and in theory noone should have any of them). Radiation after nuclear explosion from a modern ICBM goes down quickly. think - safe to walk without hazard suit in 2-3 days quickly. Also there is probably way more background radiation on mars than earth due to its thin atmosphere to begin with (sun rays are actually radioactive, Earth has a filter.). so its really not as big of a problem as it sounds.

Of course, this is only one of many problems to solve, such as kickstarting magnetic sphere.

Further evidence that Elon Musk is a James Bond villain.

I seem to recall hearing once that the atmosphere is so thin on Mars, that it will constantly be evaporating off into space, partly because the gravity is too low to maintain the heavier gases we want in an atmosphere to be habitable. So tossing nukes at the poles to melt the water (and thus having it evaporate off instead of staying as ice), seems to be contrary to making Mars habitable for humanity.

Anyone more familiar than myself on atmospheric fluid dynamics able to chime in on this. Because this guys plan not only seems silly to me, but also ultimately contrary to the final goal.

A better idea might be to grab an idea from the Star Wars EU. Coruscant solved the problem of cold climate through multiple orbital mirrors. Would be a bit easier to control than Nukes.

http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Orbital_Solar_Energy_Transfer_Satellite

That doesn't solve the larger problem mars has though, it's just too small. This has caused it's core has cool and prevents it from holding a dense enough atmosphere. Any real terraforming would require mining the asteroid belt and moving the materials to Mars.

0/10 article. did not contain phrase 'earth-shattering kaboom' and was not tagged 'earth shattering kaboom'

Interesting, that would actually work.

I suppose this all depends on the timeline. If we want to build up to this gradually then we can put astronauts in place to work on discovering things directly and getting a baseline for the planet, then we can always do this later.

If we want to get there fast and furious then nukes away. The thing is that they wouldn't be dropped directly on the polls themselves. The climate change would impact life there but so too would the slow method.

Reminds me of something Nelson Muntz once said.

"I dunno, gotta nuke somethin'."

Redlin5:
Wouldn't the radiation be a problem for settling down the road? Or are we speaking in terms of tens of thousands of years? Making Mars habitable is a pretty important process we should start as soon as we understand how to; I'm not sure this is the way. I could very well be wrong though.

To add to what has been said, the fallout you get depends on how you use the device. It's mostly stuff sucked into the fireball and spat out as radioactive material. Initiate the device on the ground, and you'll dig a big hole, and that stuff comes back hot. Initiate high above the surface, and there's not much matter to be affected, beyond dust and the device itself.

The answer is clearly that you should use hydrogen bombs.

Good! Mars had it coming! *grabs raygun*

*reads article* Oh, that's an idea I've heard proposed before. I'm still not sure it's a good one or not.

Redlin5:

P-89 Scorpion:
You know that Hiroshima and Nagasaki are habitable now right? and have been for decades.

And people won't live at the poles they'll live closer to the equator so nuking the poles not a problem except in the cost rather than habitation risk.

I know those cities are habitable, its just that the scale of these reactions to have a global effect is likely going to produce a lot of material. If the debris can be controlled into just being dumped at the poles, that's one thing. If it spreads across Mars during the process, there could be fragments strewn about in the dust for centuries.

Referencing radiation being a problem with several nukes being set off, I would reference this:

Not saying it's a good plan or anything. I don't know that. I just don't suspect radiation is going to be an issue if we're talking about dozens being setting off at each pole, even simultaneously.

Interesting idea but still doesn't solve much as far as actually getting humans to mars(hell, we don't even have the equipment to put humans on the moon anytime in the next 5 years). There's also the issue of being able to set up a self sufficient colony there and eventually having enough people to maintain a permanent population. We're a ways out from that, even if NASA did get the funding immediately.

Captcha: Why isn't "Dead babies" an answer for "Version wireless is offering you ______", because I would totally go for a dead baby plan.

Aint it cute how people think rich==smart.
Anyone who knows two licks about climatology knows that muck like nuking a hurricane you likely would not make things better, just worse. In this case mars is cold because it has a thinner atmosphere and more importantly because it is waaaaay further from the sun that earth.. Kicking up that much dust from the nukes will warm the poles.. for maybe 10 minutes and the dust it kicks up will do a lovely job of reflecting the suns rays and there by slightly reducing the temps.

Nukes... pft. Just send some moss and cockroaches up there. Mars will be livable in no time....

Well livable for giant, muscular cockroaches with a thirst for blood.

OT: I'm sure that sciency stuff he said makes a lot or no sense at all to varying people.

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