HAWTHORNE, CA – SpaceX’s CEO Elon Musk has said that he wants to Nuke Mars but why?! Does he seriously want to Nuke Mars? Let’s talk more about his ambitious plans for the future of our neighboring red planet.
Today we’re talking about Elon Musk because in the late evening hours on Thursday, August 15th, SpaceX’s CEO, Elon Musk,
tweeted out two words: “Nuke Mars” and this sent the media and scientists into a crazy frenzy.
Elon Musk is no stranger to tweets that are conversation starters. This idea although crazy sounding is actually something he really wants to do for the benefit of humanity.
It should be no secret the Elon Musk really wants to get humans to Mars as soon as possible. SpaceX is actively building and testing their prototype development vehicles for the Starship and Super Heavy rockets that are intended to take people to the Moon and Mars someday. It’s still a number of years away before SpaceX lands anybody on the Moon or Mars but it’s never too early to start thinking about once we do land on Mars what do we do there?
The first two or maybe even more Starship missions that eventually land on Mars will likely be uncrewed missions that bring things like supplies and life-support systems and power generation systems that the future human settlers that land on Mars will need to set up when they arrive. The initial crewed missions that eventually bring those human settlers to Mars will likely be one-way trips to Mars. It takes a lot of fuel to get to Mars and all that fuel that’s expended to get there leaves almost nothing to actually do a return trip back to Earth. Some people think well why not just fly a cargo mission full of fuel that gives you a ton of fuel to come back to earth but don’t forget fuel is heavy and it takes a lot of fuel just to bring fuel to Mars.
People have done the math surrounding this and it would take about eleven or twelve Starship missions to Mars just to bring enough fuel to bring one Starship back to Earth. This is a little bit crazy and SpaceX knows that and that’s why they’re focused on actually using the local resources on Mars to build infrastructure so that they can produce fuel right there on Mars for their new Raptor engine. This is one of the reasons why SpaceX opted to use methane and liquid oxygen on their new Raptor engines instead of rocket grade kerosene which is what the Falcon 9 uses. NASA has already done Studies on this using the local resources on Mars and found that it may be possible to actually produce things like methane oxygen and water just using those local resources that are already available right on Mars. An option like this would still take many years in order to build the infrastructure necessary to actually accomplish that but that still doesn’t answer the question once we get there.
What Elon Musk’s ultimate goal is to set up a permanent civilization on Mars by the year 2050 or so. The concept of living on Mars sounds pretty awesome but would you really want to spend the rest of your life there? Think about it you’d be stuck inside all the time, it’s super cold on Mars, it’s about negative 80 degrees Fahrenheit or negative 60 degrees Celsius on average. The ambient air pressure outside is only about six millibars which is way too low to just go walking outside unprotected and eventually these human settlers would have to deal with a whole range of issues especially psychological issues like severe cabin fever so really we need a way for these human settlers to go outside and make Mars more like Earth and that is where the idea of nuking Mars comes in.
One of Elon’s ideas is to quite literally detonate two thermonuclear weapons at the poles of Mars this would essentially create two tiny Suns at each Pole and warm up the planet. This would allow water to start flowing and it would allow gases like carbon dioxide to be released into the atmosphere and essentially this induces an intentional form of global warming on Mars. It’s theorized by intentionally melting the entire North and South Pole on Mars that you could bring the ambient air pressure up to about 20 millibars on Mars. Although this is still a long way away from the roughly 1,000 millibars that it is at sea level here on Earth, the hope is that once you start warming the poles that this induces a self-sustaining snowball effect. This would allow additional carbon dioxide to be released from the soil on Mars further increasing the ambient pressure in the atmosphere and eventually getting you to the point where you could walk outside unprotected, although the air still may not be breathable so you might still need a breathing apparatus.
Ultimately this is a plan that would take decades or even centuries to be fully matured. Who knows, maybe someday we’ll have another Earth-like planet right next door. What do you guys think about this plan? Is this just complete insanity or do you think this will actually happen someday?