Elon Musk Wants to Nuke Mars to Trigger Global Warming

Castle Bravo Nuclear Bomb test at Bikini Atoll. Public domain image, source Wikimedia

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.

Inventory of CO2 available for terraforming Mars
Bruce M. Jakosky & 
Christopher S. Edwards 
Nature Astronomyvolume 2, pages 634–639 (2018) 

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.

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167 thoughts on “Elon Musk Wants to Nuke Mars to Trigger Global Warming

    • Recently a Tesla S burst in to flames in Hong Kong, Tesla then deployed a software update to those vehicles that had their WiFi internet connections on and “downgraded” the performance of the battery. Tesla said it was an “upgrade” to preserve the life of the battery. Someone in America wasn’t too happy about that and is bringing a class suit action against Tesla over it.

      Tesla: Saving the planet by consuming more resources in more cars!!

      Forget using nukes to make Mars warmer. He’s going to have to change the composition of atmosphere to 78% N2, 21% O2 and the remaining trace gases including about 0.04% CO2 and with a pressure of about 14psi, so a very thick atmosphere on Mars. How is Musk going to get rid of 97% of the current Martian atmosphere, CO2, ‘coz nukes won’t do it?

      • Mars needs both more gravity aka mass and a magnetic field. Even when (if) Mars had water, per the information we currently have, the internal structure the planet is different so it will never again (if ever) have an Earth like atmosphere. It has little to no internal heat and is barely able to keep any solar heat with a what a 97% CO2 atmosphere already.

        Any gas we managed to release will just be removed by the solar wind. Due to the aforementioned no magnetic field and not enough gravity to compress any of the gases out of the atmosphere into a liquid.

        Hell where is the ethics and morality in this equation!?! There may be some life on the planet, not complex life. Should we not, at the very least, confirm that it is a biologically dead world first.

        He wants our first act in colonizing a planet to start with a possible sterilization plan; to become a Destroyer of Worlds species. And people look up to this guy?!? –> almost makes me want to create a twitter accout

        Honestly, a part me wishes we could do, to show once and for all that CO2 is not a zero-point module; perpetual motion molecule.

        • Some of the released CO2 may be carried away by the solar wind but most will just freeze again at the poles, restoring Mars to its stable condition. And that will happen pretty quickly, probably within a Martian year.

        • It would be far better to direct one or two hundred comets at the surface. What is missing is water – lots of it, to thicken the atmosphere, then bacteria to convert the available gases to something approaching that of a diving bell or earthship.

          There is so little CO2 it will quickly drop as a % of the total.

          The impacts would be far greater than a hundred h-bombs. It the comet’s (or asteroids) were well targeted, the orbit could be brought in towards the sun while speeding it up slightly to compensate.

          We done have to do it in our generation, it is a long term project. The potential benefit is large, not to mention fun.

          I’ll add that it is extremely likely there are life forms on all the planets, with Martian ones most similar to what we understand about microbiology.

    • Karabar
      “Because CO2 is a potent greenhouse gas, …”

      What if that belief turns out to be wrong?

    • Exactly, since CO2 is the world’s best coolant. Thermodynamic physicists cannot get CO2 to warm anything, but it’s a great coolant. Mercedes is now using CO2 in the auto A/C units and new skating rinks are using only CO2. The dirty little secret is that rising CO2 tends to cool the planet, radiating at night. However, as rising CO2 displaces absolute water vapor and water vapor is a more powerful radiative gas, rising CO2 very slightly does warm the climate, but only a a gnat’s wing thickness.

      • Charles Higley – August 17, 2019 at 7:58 pm

        However, as rising CO2 displaces absolute water vapor and water vapor is a more powerful radiative gas,

        OH MY, …… so that is why Charles Keeling moved his laboratory to the top of Mauna Loa, ….. RIGHT?

      • This really is very simple. There is no need to debate a theory, as we have the evidence used to test modeller’s predictions. The models that are based on the assumption that CO2 is “potent” utterly fail to predict the much smaller observed change in the greenhouse where it will be a maximum if real. As measured by satellite and balloon since 1979 and reprted by University of Hunstville Alabama to the US Government by the scientists who created the award winning programme for NASA. . Of course this is hardly surprising as the modellers use arbitrary amplifications for CO2 that they simply make up to suit their rhetoric and grant funding objective, to prove CO2 a problem. In fact the contribution from CO2 is known to be tiny and its effect to decrease logarithmically with concentration through the band saturation effect, so in reality it is a LOT less potent than the dominant natural greenhouse effect of water vapour. The models are wrong. https://www.dropbox.com/s/potr730d8e2qo9w/Tropospheric%20models%20versus%20actual%20measurements.jpg?dl=0

      • At breakfast yesterday, we watched a CO2 truck charging the carbonating system of a restaurant across the street. As the fog of venting CO2 vaporized we could feel the heat wave engulfing the planet! /s

    • While we’re coming up with weird and wonderful ways to warm up Mars, I’m surprised Elon didn’t promote the solar panel route. One means suggested to ‘protect Earth from global warming’ was to place in Earth orbit a fleet of mirrors to reflect away the Sun’s light. Surely, this technique could be reversed for Mars in order to increase the amount of sunshine that hits the planet’s surface. Sending a load of high water content objects to crash into the planet would help to trap the extra energy.

    • Let’s reanalyze this, shall we?

      Barking mad to continuously pump up his reputation among the scientifically-uneducated and hysterically tout the evils of carbon dioxide at the same time? Relevant to the point may be the fact that belief in that mythology is necessary to drive government subsidies that are the entire source of his wealth.

  1. Musk should have gone into the cologne business.He’s right up there in the ‘who’s who’ weirdo category along with Gore the bore.

  2. The partial pressure of CO2 on Earth is 400/1000000 * 101325 Pa = 40.53 Pa The partial pressure of CO2 on Mars is 95/100*610 Pa = 580 Pa. The GHE on Mars should be significantly higher than on Earth even allowing for the reduced TSI. Would increasing the amount of CO2 actually make a difference?

    • By my calculations, there is around 3 times more total CO2 in Mars’ atmosphere compared with earth, but the apparent greenhouse effect is only .5 degrees. On Venus, it too has an atmosphere that is almost 100% CO2 but has an atmospheric pressure at ground level of 92-93 times that of earth. Its greenhouse effect is of course huge. High school science- PV=nRT . Pressure creates the heat. CO2 probably has almost no effect whatsoever (if any) , but we are being fed the propaganda under threat of retribution. The “proof” is that speaking out against the “settled science” gets you blacklisted.

      • 3x more C02 on Mars?

        I thought the atmosphere was 1% of the density on Earth’s atmosphere. That would mean there is the equivalent of a 10,000 ppm CO2 on Earth (ie if ours was 1% CO2). That is about 25x as much CO2, if you compare an equivalent volume of atmosphere, rather than the whole.

        Obviously, that is why it’s so tremendously hot on Mars…

      • No, you have that backwards. Temperature is the independent variable. P=nRT/V. Temperature creates the pressure. The sun creates the temperature.

        What would the atmosphere on Venus be if by some unexplained process, it was thrown out of orbit into intergalactic space?

        The atmosphere would all freeze solid as the temperature drops to about 3K. Pressure and volume would go to essentially zero.

        I’m not sure what greenhouse effect CO2 is having on Venus, but any comparison between Venus and Earth is absurd since the maximum CO2 concentration we could conceivably drive by burning fossil fuels would probably not even reach 1500ppm (0.15%)

        • In any case there is lots of other greenhouse gases on Venus, CO, SO2. N2O, HF, HCl, H2O (yes, there is some) and other stuff we don’t even know of, probably even some metal carbonyles.

        • there is lots of other greenhouse gases on Venus,

          The type and percentage of GHGs in Venuses atmosphere is not the cause of its extreme temperature.

          The density of Venuses atmosphere and its axial rotation speed are the culprits, to wit:

          Venus is the second planet from the Sun, orbiting it every 224.7 Earth days. It has the longest rotation period (243 Earth days) of any planet in the Solar System

          It has the densest atmosphere of the four terrestrial planets, consisting of more than 96% carbon dioxide.

          Surface temperature: 462 °C (864 °F)

          The mass of its atmosphere is 93 times that of Earth’s, whereas the pressure at its surface is about 92 times that at Earth’s—a pressure equivalent to that at a depth of nearly 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) under Earth’s oceans. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venus

        • This idea of pressure creating heat has me weirded out. The bottom of the Marianas trench should be boiling hot and temperature in the ocean should go up with increasing depth. Okay, perhaps it only works with a compressible gas. But, but , but?

          • If you have ever had a propane grill for a summer barbecue, you’ve probably noticed that the tank (which stores the propane at about 10 times atmospheric pressure), tends to be red hot. And we all know that the elderly patients who use oxygen are constantly suffering burns from accidentally touching the tank.

            Wait, is that right?

            Maybe our Zeller-Nikolov experts can ‘splain this to us.

      • Not only does PV=nRT not explain temperature, it is probably not even an appropriate equation of state to apply in any case. The surface pressure is so high that you likely have to use a real gas law–I.e. use a compressibility factor, Z.

        I thought you members of the “misapplication of the ideal gas law club” were banned at this site.

    • Perhaps we should first figure out why Mars has no CO2 in the first place – if it was never there then why? If it was there at one time why isn’t it there now? Did it escape? Swept away by solar winds? Would it stay if we put it there now – and for how long would it be around – and how much warmer would it be if it DID stay around?
      Lots of questions, no answers, not even a MODEL by Mr Musk.

      • It has CO2 in the atmosphere. A lot more than Earth as a matter of fact. And even more in the polar caps, which probably evaporates periodically naturally due to Milankovich effects.

        But unfortunately CO2 is a weak GHG, with narrow absorption bands. What Mars doesn’t have is the important GHG, water.

        • I had always assumed that the first step in terraforming Mars would be to drop large ice asteroids onto its surface.. .

    • The pressure measured at Mars’ surface is equal to the weight of the column of atmosphere per unit area from the surface to infinity. Since Mars’ surface gravity is 0.38 that of the Earth, however, the total mass of the Martian atmosphere in that column would be 1/0.38 = 2.63 times that of the mass in a 1 g field. So the corrected corresponding partial pressure compared to Earth is 2.63 x 580 Pa = 1,525 Pa, the mass of CO2 in Mars’ atmosphere per unit area is about 37.6 times that of the Earth’s atmosphere. Mar’s radius is 0.53 times that of the Earth, so its total surface area is 0.53^2 = 0.28 times that of the Earth. That brings the total atmospheric CO2 content on Mars to 0.28 x 37.6 = 10.5 that of the Earth’s.

      That’s more than enough to work with. What Mars could actually use more of is gases that absorb in the UV and above, such as oxygen and nitrogen.

      • “Since Mars’ surface gravity is 0.38 that of the Earth, however, the total mass of the Martian atmosphere in that column would be 1/0.38 = 2.63 times that of the mass in a 1 g field.”

        So:
        less gravity –> more atmospheric mass
        no gravity –> infinite atmospheric mass

        Got it.

        • Pressure is force/unit area, where the force is a weight of material. Force = mass*acceleration, or in the case of this example Weight = mass*(acceleration of gravity).

          1 Newton of weight could correspond to 1 kg(mass)*9.80665 m/sec^2 (the gravitational acceleration at the surface of the Earth. A Newton is 9.80665 kg-m/sec^2. Thus 9.80665 kg-m/sec^2 of weight on Mars, where the surface gravitation is 3.711 m/sec^2, would require a mass of 2.643 kg.

          To put it in more basic terms, mass is an inherent property of matter. Weight is not; it’s derived, and depends on the local gravitational field.

          Using the surface gravity of each planet to compare surface pressures is of course an approximation. It assumes a uniform gravity field to the top of the atmosphere, among other things. So it’s a linearization, but not a bad one in this case.

          If a small asteroid had a surface pressure (and temperature) equal to Earth’s, it would approach your zero g infinite mass case, but the problem is so non-linear by that point the linear comparison would be meaningless.

      • “What Mars could actually use more of is gases that absorb in the UV and above, such as oxygen and nitrogen.”

        Asteriods and comets have oxygen and hydrogen in them. Musk should probably change tactics and build himself a nuclear orbital transfer vehicle that can go fetch suitable asteriods and comets and bring them to Mars and crash them into Mars’ atmosphere. Build up the atmosphere nice and thick and up come the temperatures, and it takes thousands of years for the atmosphere to dissipate so that leaves plenty of time to keep it topped up. 🙂

        Colonizing Mars is much more difficult than simply building suitable human habitats in space.

        Musk should probably get together with Bezos and concentrate on building an O’Neill Habitat in orbit around Mars. Then, once this orbiting infrastructure is in orbit, we can explore Mars at our leisure, without putting humans at risk of excess radiation exposure.

        Exploration crews can move from the radiation-shielded O’Neill Habitat to the radiation-shielded underground Mars base, with the only exposure being during surface operations. The crews spend short periods of time on Mars and longer periods of time protected in the O’Neill Habitat.

        This method, along with using an artificial gavity, radiation-shielded Aldrin Cycler/s as the means of transport between Earth and Mars, will reduce radiation exposure time greatly, compared to current plans.

        Musk and Bezos should start out by building a demonstration O’Neill Habitat in Earth orbit. They can move it to a more preferable location, such as orbiting the Moon, after it is completed.

        I have visions of O’Neill Habitats dancing in my head! That doesn’t mean much. Jeff Bezos has visons of O’Neill habitats dancing in his head, too. That could mean a lot! 🙂

    • If you divide the partial pressure by the gravity (Mars: 3.72 m/s^2) you get the amount of CO2 in kg/m^2. For the Earth is that 6.43 kg/m^2 (taking account for the ratio of the molecular weight of CO2 versus that of the air: 44/29), for Mars is the amount 164 kg CO2/m^2. The ratio of CO2 per surface area between Mars and the Earth is 25.5, the ratio for the total atmospheric amount is 7.2.

  3. The martian atmosphere is already 95% CO2. Gassifying the polar water and dry ice caps would probably not heat up the surface enough to be habitable. Only in the dark winter do dry ice slabs deposit alternately on the permanent north and south polar water ice caps. Some 25 to 30% of martian CO2 moves into and out of the atmosphere in this way.

    Thus, the greatest benefit would come from evaporating the water ice. However the very dry martian atmosphere, even with its density increased, would soon lose most of this water. Atomic oxygen from photolysis of CO2 in the upper atmosphere can escape to space, so adding water to the air would risk losing hydrogen and oxygen in the same way.

  4. Elon just wants to distract us from noticing Tesla is slowly going broke.

    We take him seriously at our peril.

    • Yep..that is what happens when you smoke too much pot. You fry your brain. I don’t have a lot of faith in Elon Musk anymore after watching him implode Tesla and Solar City with all that hype. If you can’t make money with all those subsidies and freeloading off shareholders, then something else must be wrong.

    • True – why would anybody trust him on this crazy idea when he cannot reach his output target on EVs and his solar company is close to going broke? He should stick to his knitting, which he is not very good at!

  5. Just when you thought the insanity could not get any worse the Green’s Icon, comes up with about the craziest idea yet conceived.
    They are that mad to even think about transferring hundreds of thermonuclear devices across the planetary divide to heat up some CO2 on Mars. It would just evaporate into space on the prevailing solar winds from a then irradiated world making it, an even more hostile environment that it was prior to their lunatic idea.
    Complete madness.

  6. If the CO2 in the Martian ice caps was previously in the atmosphere why didn’t it prevent the planet from becoming frozen in the first place? Or maybe the whole greenhouse warming thing doesn’t work.

    • Shhhhhhh!

      Apparently, according to the never-wrong Wikipedia, the reason Mars is not a hothouse caused by CO2 is that there are not enough of the other greenhouse gasses. It must be true

      The weaker greenhouse effect in the Martian atmosphere (5 °C, versus 33 °C on Earth) can be explained by the low abundance of other greenhouse gases.

      Nobody mention the obvious conclusion to be drawn, that Earth’s climate is the way it is because of the abundance of other greenhouse gasses (ie water vapour), or people might get the impression that CO2 does not have much effect on our climate.

  7. Before that, Mars need a magnetic field generator.
    Not much point to do anything to free up CO2 if it only blows away by the solar wind.
    Well, build nuke hrnerators around the equator and connect them…. turning Mars to a solenoid.
    Just by introducing a magnetic shield would start the process of atmosphere building and protect human settlers. I don’t have the math skill to calculate how much strength need and what is realistically generated by such a system. But I would prefer instead of a unstable pot smoking dude blow shit up there….

  8. “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.”
    ————
    I read that. I just have a hard time realizing someone wrote it.

  9. The problem is that Mars does not have a magnetic field, any atmosphere you produce will just get swept away by the solar wind.
    Several years back, I proposed building some induction coils in orbit around the equator of the Planet. Once energized, the coils turn the entire planet into a giant induction furnace. (You just have to think Big!) This could remelt the iron core of the planet and recreate a magnetic field. Now you can profitably reintroduce an atmosphere and start terraforming activities.

    For reasons unknown to me, the crowd here at WUWT was not terribly excited with my proposal. As we see now, I was just ahead of my time. All I need do is suggest it to Elon Musk, and my idea will have a wealthy, visionary backer. Certainly my idea beats the hell out of nuking the hell out if the Martians.

      • Yes! Finally, a positive review.
        I hope some of the other regulars at WUWT will weigh in with their thoughts on my fabulous idea.

        • Well, we should probably explore Mars for signs of indigenous life before we melt it. It’s probably our best bet for finding life outside the Earth. That’s one good reason to go to Mars, whether we set up permanent residence or not.

  10. The Earth’s ozone in the stratosphere comes from EUV/UV bombarding O2 to make O3, and thus makes the stratosphere opaque to EUV and UV-C and most UV-B, and protects surface life from this strongly sterilizing radiation. The O2 comes from Earth’s copious oceans.
    Without sufficient water on Mars, there is no atmospheric oxygen to be converted to ozone on Mars (either thru biologic photosynthesis or non-biologic dissociation). Thus any terraformed Mars atmosphere would still suffer sterilizing EUV/UV to the surface.

  11. Musk and his nuclear bombs.
    Gates and his chalk dust.

    Have any of these obscenely rich types ever been psychologically tested for a God complex?

  12. Earth is a gigantic nuclear waste cooling pool. Ni kidding. Where does geothermal energy come from?

    Formation of the earth involved a huge quantity of radioactive elements that concentrated deep below the surface and still release considerable heat (energy) by their decay. Yep.

    Geothermal is in fact nuclear. Somehow inconvenient for the radiophobic crowds out there.

    Now, this radiogenic heat represents a very small percentage of earth’s thermal balance.

    However combined with the primordial heat, in a very poorly understood climate system, this factor should not be neglected specifically in projects where proposed infrastructures involve massive underground infrastructures.

    Even more so on a planet without water circulation system, hot sources and other underwater volcanoes.

    Just one more self-promotion sensational insane green public-relation attempt.

  13. Why all the H-bombs? All we need to do is build a nuclear reactor there, which when activated begins a chain reaction sublimating the turbinium, thus releasing great clouds filled with water vaper and oxygen. Duh.

  14. Here is some useful information about the Martian atmosphere:-

    One of the more prominent features of the Martian climate is the seasonal exchange of carbon dioxide between the atmosphere and surface. During winter, a substantial portion of the atmosphere freezes out, forming the seasonal ice caps and reducing surface pressures globally. Summertime sublimation replenishes atmospheric CO2 as the seasonal cap recedes toward the pole, with a perennial carbon dioxide deposit persisting only in the southern hemisphere [Kieffer, 1979]. Pressure variations measured by the Viking landers in the 1970s confirmed that as much as 30% of the atmosphere participates in this annual CO2 cycle [James et al., 1992].
    The existence of this cycle and its effect on atmospheric pressures had been predicted by Leighton and Murray [1966] on the basis of a polar energy balance model. The success of their model proved that atmospheric pressure on Mars is largely controlled by the polar energy balance on seasonal and annual time scales. During summer, insolation is balanced against infrared emission and the latent heat of subliming CO2, as well as conductive heat exchange with the subsurface. Winter on Mars brings “polar night” to latitudes poleward of roughly 65, when the sun remains continuously below the horizon for one or more days. During this period, the atmosphere and surface cool by infrared emission to space until atmospheric carbon dioxide begins to condense, at which point further cooling is buffered by the release of latent heat. Advective transport of heat into the polar regions is inefficient due to the low density of the Martian atmosphere.

    Hayne, P.O., Paige, D.A., Schofield, J.T., Kass, D.M., Kleinböhl, A., Heavens, N.G. and McCleese,
    D.J., 2012. Carbon dioxide snow clouds on Mars: South polar winter observations by the Mars
    Climate Sounder. Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets,117(E8).

    On Mars it snows carbon dioxide during the southern polar winter. In this respect the atmosphere of Mars is unusual in that it is the main constituent gas that freezes rather than a minor volatile component, such as water in the case of the Earth, methane in the case of Titan and sulphuric acid for Venus.

    • Also on the northern water ice cap in boreal winter. A thin seasonal veneer of dry ice is deposited each winter, adding 1.5 to two meters to the permanent water ice cap. In summer, the dry ice sublimates into the atmosphere. Mars’ seasons are similar to Earth’s, because its rotational axis has a tilt close to our own planet’s (25.19° for Mars, 23.44° for Earth at present).

      • At present yes. But in the absence of a stabilizing Moon the axial tilt is much more variable, and at times the CO2 in the polar caps probably vaporizes completely, giving rise to the characteristic “layered terrain”.

      • John,

        I did a bit more digging and found this on Wikipedia
        Martian polar ice caps:-

        The ice cap in the north is of a lower altitude (base at -5000 m, top at -2000 m) than the one in the south (base at 1000 m, top at 3500 m).[21][22] It is also warmer, so all the frozen carbon dioxide disappears each summer.[23] The part of the cap that survives the summer is called the north residual cap and is made of water ice.

        That is a really nice point about the Martian north pole having a lower average elevation than the south pole.
        We can assume that on average the north pole of Mars has a higher surface air pressure.
        So the north pole of Mars is warmer than the south because of what? – surface elevation or atmospheric pressure?

        I do so love comparative planetology.

        • Hard to compare when Mars’ surface atmosphere is wispierr than our stratosphere.

          I assumed elevation. although of course air pressure is related to elevation. Our North Pole lies at Arctic Ocean sea level, while the colder South Pole on land at 9301 feet, some 800 miles fom the nearest open seawater.

  15. “Technological Requirements for Terraforming Mars” … Christopher P. McKay. NASA Ames Research Center.

    http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~mfogg/zubrin.htm

    Bringing asteroids to Mars and crashing them into the poles is another terraforming plan that has been around in NASA circles for decades. See the 1989 Integrated Space Plan that was produced during the George Bush Snr presidency.

    https://static1.squarespace.com/static/56c78acd0442626b2590f5ea/t/59eef0e2bff200b5f0aa3491/1508831458842/integratedspaceplan2color.pdf

    • What if we find microbes there? Do we save the Martians, or risk destroying them with a very late heavy bombardment? With enough nickel-iron asteroids, we might restart the core’s magnetic field propagation, as well as increasing the planet’s gravity.

      • I don’t think microbes are a problem, they will adapt or they don’t. Same goes for any Martian life, the space age is in its infancy, evolution continues without end.

  16. Musk should look for fossil fuels in Mars. We have already demonstrated that is an easy way of increasing atmospheric CO2. Then we can add the cows for the methane and some photosynthetic bacteria for the oxygen. Looks easy enough. Or at least more feasible than buying Greenland from the Danes.

    • “Or at least more feasible than buying Greenland from the Danes.”

      Well, he had to ask. All they could say is “no”. 🙂

  17. How about, instead of trying to give Mars an atmosphere, just building a bunch of air supported structures, AKA tennis domes. link link The linked story describes a 10 acre structure in Vancouver, BC.

  18. Colonizing the asteroid belt might make more sense. Build cities inside the larger asteroids, with their available water, and mine the smaller ones.

    Could also live underground on Mars as well, as it has a lot of submartian water ice.

  19. I’ve read up a little on the supposed ‘Face on Cydonia’ and the pyramidal-like structures on Mars that some say,including former NASA employee Richard Hoagland, that these structures are not natural formations and that they were built by some mysterious advanced ancient civilization on Mars ions ago when the planet was habitable but came to earth in ancient times to escape a planet wide catastrophe on mars.
    Can anybody help me out with this assessment because while the formations look interesting,I don’t know for sure they’re real.NASA says that they’re natural formations .I must admit they do look striking and it sort of makes you wonder what the fetch is going on.Please anyone out there ,share your thoughts and imput on this.I’d like to know what you guys think about all this.Thanks. – Dan

  20. I’m surprised he didn’t propose a pipeline to pump CO2 from earth to mars and “fix” two planets!

  21. I might actually support this project. On one condition. That Elon rides the first one down, like Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove…

  22. Mars has been hit by objects in its past resulting in more energy being released then what has been proposed. Apparently those past energy releases have failed to terraform Mars. To terraform Mars, what is needed is to first increase its mass of the planet to what the Earth is and then to add H2O , N2, and O2 to provide oceans and about twice the atmosphere that is on Earth. Mars would need a surface pressure that would make up for its greater distance from the sun. There is probably enough CO2 on the planet. We could probably get much of the required mass of material from the asteroid belt. Considering what it costs to send a robot lander to Mars, the cost is currently quite prohibitive.

    • The mass of the largest asteroid Ceres is 8.958 × 10^20 kg.

      The mass of Mars is 6.39 × 10^23 kg. So we need a lot of asteroids to get Mars into the Earth class.

        • Borrow one to give Mars a big moon, which might jump start its core again to produce a magnetosphere.

          Or use Ceres in that role.

    • You would think that someone with Musk’s general technical expertise, enough to at least *communicate* with his engineer employees, would know better than to suggest such an ineffectual, dumb idea?

      Mars isn’t some little place, it’s one of the major rocky planets, with a diameter half the Earth’s and a total land area comparable to the Earth’s land area! Even if Musk had a bunch of nukes and all the extra rocket power needed to throw them at Mars, the lasting effect on something that size is going to be a kind of fizzle, essentially.

      … but then, the ‘oberver.com’ article in the head posting already said something like that ,,,

  23. In addition to how much surface CO2 could be released into Mars’ atmosphere is whether its atmosphere has the proper temperature gradient to produce much greenhouse warming (GHW). Most GHW occurs, not because of the total amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, but how cold is the atmosphere at the emission height where IR emission from CO2 escapes to space, and that emission rate is slowed because of colder temperature. Earth has the required temperature gradient; does Mars? Further, there is the fact that most GHW on Earth is produced by water vapor, not CO2. And at Mars’ current temperature, it would be difficult to get much water vapor to dwell in its atmosphere.
    Then there is the issue of total atmospheric pressure, even if considerable CO2 were released. Mars has lost most of its nitrogen, which makes up the majority of Earth’s atmosphere. Unless significant oxygen could be produced somehow, Mars’ atmosphere would remain that of a modest vacuum.
    Also, there is the fact that the lack of a magnetic field on Mars does not prevent it s atmosphere from being stripped away by solar energetic irradiation. That is how Mars lost its nitrogen, much of its argon, and likely much of its water.

    • I forgot to mention that Mars’ thin atmosphere and lack of ozone (made on Earth from oxygen) does not filter out ultraviolet radiation. Living organic tissue, plant and animal, is very susceptible to damage from UV radiation.

  24. The nukes could heat up Mars beyond merely melting the polar caps (the gasses from which would then retain the heat).

    Think bigger, Elron!

  25. The only advantage to this proposal I see is there is no chance of a nuclear retaliatory strike back at earth.

    • The only advantage to this proposal I see is there is no chance of a nuclear retaliatory strike back at earth.

      I remember watching a documentary on this topic. It was narrated by the famous personality, Tom Cruise. The results of the Martian retaliation were quite serious, as I recall.Some people maintain that the Martian action was a preemptive strike. Opinions vary.

  26. In the not so distant future the human body will no longer be required, absorbed into an electrical entity. Terraforming not required.

  27. Funny how a nuclear apocalypse would trigger warming on Mars, while causing a “nuclear winter” on Earth. Who finds the basic mistake???

    • The “Nuclear winter” was never a serious proposition for reasons of basic atmospheric physics.

      The only real “nuclear winter” we know of on Earth was after the Chicxulub impact.

      Mars on the other hand has “nuclear winters” in the form of global dust storms.

  28. Silly question but if a hydrogen bomb was exploded above the Martian surface, wouldn’t the resulting fission raise the local temperature to several million degrees and cause the immediate atmosphere to shoot off into space along with a not insignificant amount of the surface.

    • It doesn’t happen on Earth, does it?

      It takes one big bang to accelerate an appreciable mass to escape velocity. Big asteroid impacts can do it, but hardly a measly H-bomb.

  29. Never mind Mars, terraform Venus by plankton-bombing it. The upper atmosphere is Earth temperature so the plankton can live up there whilst converting CO2 into O2 via photosynthesis. Then as the CO2 diminishes, the plankton will reach lower altitudes, until all done. Somebody calculate the time this would take, then figure out how to turbocharge the process.

  30. Remember when people like Musk wrote science fiction, a field appropriate to their starry-eyed existence? Now rich idiots give him money to pretend he can create reality from fiction…..

  31. Mars does not have the gravity or thermal input necessary to be terraformed. It is cooler because it is further away, it has less atmosphere because it is smaller and it is barren because it doesn’t have a large moon keeping it’s core molten. A molten core combined with solar wind will generate magnetosphere.

    These must be addressed by brute force.

    Make the sun 28% hotter.
    Increase the mass 9x.
    Bring a planetary body 1/80th that new mass along with to place into orbit.
    Bung 43 billion terawatts of heat energy into the middle of the new mass.

    If even just *one* of these items is skipped then a terraforming of Mars would fail.

    • From my understanding the internal planetary structure of Mars is also very different from Earth.

      There seems to be no evidence of plate tectonics on the planet. Not sure “re-moltenizing” the core would perform the desire stated function of creating planetary electromagnetic dynamo. Even, if said thing was possible.

  32. Musk wants to send H-Bombs to Mars?
    Didn’t he try to put a Tesla in Mars orbit? Where did it end up?
    What does he have against the asteroid belt?

    • No, the Roadster sent up as a proxy payload on the first Falcon Heavy launch was never intended to go into Mars Orbit. It is currently in an orbit around the Sun which will, I believe, cross the orbit of Mars on every circuit. This was known by Musk and SpaceX before the launch. Criticizing someone based on misinformation is pretty sloppy; there are plenty of valid things to criticize Musk over – like nuking Mars. So I guess you got it half right.

      • It wasn’t meant to go into Mars orbit? Where did Musk say that before the launch and/or it didn’t orbit?
        (Don’t misunderstand me. I’m asking for a correction of what may be a false impression on my part.)

        • I don’t have time to look for it now, but I originally read his comments (and official SpaceX pressers) at http://www.spaceflightnow.com. It makes sense if you think about it, because in order to go into Mars orbit you would need to have, at minimum, fuel left over for orbit insertion breaking, navigation, communications back to Earth, and power for all that. Clearly that would be much too expensive for a simple test launch where the object was to test the booster. Normally for such a test, a concrete weight would be used to simulate the payload. Elon just decided to use his personal Roadster on a whim.

        • Thanks, Paul.
          I looked also and couldn’t find anything that said he intended to have his used car orbit Mars, just orbit the Sun.
          But he still missed his mark regarding his intended mark.
          Let him nuke the Sun. (Using his own money.)
          I doubt it will notice. 😎

  33. Not only an idiotic idea, but dangerous as well.

    Let’s just assume the CO2 and water ice trapped in the Martian poles could be released under such a plan (forgetting about the study documented above that says that is not feasible). H-bombs need fission bombs to start the thermonuclear process. That means they use radioactive components. Those thousands of bombs would need to be launched toward Mars from the surface of Earth using chemically powered rockets with a reliability of <1.0. Anyone keen on that idea?

    Musk, you out there to respond?

  34. Are people really taking a tweet seriously from a (probably) sleep deprived man just before he goes to bed? I don’t know about anybody else, but that’s not when I do my clearest thinking.

  35. 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.

    Mars is a dead planet so it wouldn’t make much difference. But that distinction would seem to imply that there’d be no radiation concerns because they’d be H-Bombs (fussion) and not on the surface.
    Last I heard, the detonator for an H-bomb IS a nuclear (fission) bomb.

  36. ……’ …Because CO2 is a potent greenhouse gas…..’ ? Eh? Says it all about him and he rest

  37. Even though Mars has higher partial pressure of CO2 than Earth it doesn’t have enough surface pressure to broaden those wimpy, thin CO2 absorption lines. Moreover, there is not enough other gases, greenhouse or otherwise, for local thermodynamic equilibrium to prevail.

  38. There are reasons why Mars has little atmosphere – No magnetic field to protect it and too little gravity. Nuking Mars would accomplish nothing except polluting the surface with radioactive materials.

    If you want to live on Mars, then you need to start aiming comets at it gradually building up both gravity and water. If you do this long enough, say a few thousand years, you might then have a planet capable of hanging on to some of it’s water and atmosphere (other than ice). You would have to keep replenishing the atmosphere because of the lack of a magnetic field strong enough to protect it.

    In any case, it ain’t happening in Musk’s lifetime.

  39. As Mars supposedly has 2 sites with XE-129 atomic weapons signature , Maybe someone or thing could say ” Been there , done that Elon ! “.

  40. “Its probably worth having a closer look at Mars before dismissing the idea. ”

    Even if CO2 was as powerful as the IPCC claims, this idea is trivial to dismiss. Just considering it as potentially viable is silly. If Mars had the same 1 ATM atmospheric pressure as Earth and the same amount of atmospheric CO2 Mars has now, the atmospheric concentration would be well over 10000 ppm. Any additional CO2 will have little, if any, incremental GHG effect.

    The scientific reality is that CO2 is at least 3-4 times less powerful at warming the surface then claimed by the IPCC which turns silliness into insanity. Pegging our future on terraforming Mars with GHG’s is an exercise in futility. It’s about as insane as dropping a nuke into Yellowstone to cool the Earth.

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