Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Would you trust Musk with hundreds of H-bombs?
Elon Musk Wants to ‘Nuke Mars’ for Humans to Live—But There Is One Problem
By Sissi Cao • 08/16/19 12:17pm
Firing nuclear weapons at Mars might have been the last idea on Elon Musk’s mind before going to bed last night. “Nuke Mars!” the Tesla and SpaceX CEO tweeted Thursday night a few minutes past midnight, prompting a Twitter frenzy with over 100,000 likes by Friday morning.
He later clarified that the plan is not to drop nuclear bombs on the surface of Mars, but in the sky above its two poles. Specifically, Musk wants to drop hydrogen bombs (which use fusion) into the atmosphere above the Martian poles every few seconds to release the carbon dioxide trapped inside Mars’ ice caps.
Because CO2 is a potent greenhouse gas, the more CO2 Mars can release into the atmosphere, the warmer the planet’s surface will be. The effect is similar to how the fusion process inside the sun produces energy to keep Earth warm.
…Read more: https://observer.com/2019/08/elon-musk-nuke-mars-colonization-plan-spacex/
The article goes on to cite a study which concludes that the plan is not feasible.
We revisit the idea of ‘terraforming’ Mars — changing its environment to be more Earth-like in a way that would allow terrestrial life (possibly including humans) to survive without the need for life-support systems — in the context of what we know about Mars today. We want to answer the question of whether it is possible to mobilize gases present on Mars today in non-atmospheric reservoirs by emplacing them into the atmosphere, and increase the pressure and temperature so that plants or humans could survive at the surface. We ask whether this can be achieved considering realistic estimates of available volatiles, without the use of new technology that is well beyond today’s capability. Recent observations have been made of the loss of Mars’s atmosphere to space by the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission probe and the Mars Express spacecraft, along with analyses of the abundance of carbon-bearing minerals and the occurrence of CO2 in polar ice from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Mars Odyssey spacecraft. These results suggest that there is not enough CO2 remaining on Mars to provide significant greenhouse warming were the gas to be emplaced into the atmosphere; in addition, most of the CO2 gas in these reservoirs is not accessible and thus cannot be readily mobilized. As a result, we conclude that terraforming Mars is not possible using present-day technology.Read more: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41550-018-0529-6
Its probably worth having a closer look at Mars before dismissing the idea. The opportunity is potentially so enormous we shouldn’t write off the plan based on an aerial survey; a ground based survey might settle the question more definitively.
But even if this daring plan gets the go-ahead, I’m not keen on Musk being the person in charge of all those H-bombs.