Sorry, Elon Musk: One Does Not Simply Nuke Mars Into Habitability

Elon Musk says the fast track to terraforming Mars involves dropping nuclear weapons on the planet’s poles to warm it up.

The billionaire inventor and business magnate appeared on “The Late Show” Wednesday to talk about Tesla, SpaceX and other forward-thinking ventures he leads. When pressed by host Stephen Colbert about a “fast way” to making Mars into an Earth-like planet, Musk offered the method, “drop thermonuclear weapons over the poles.

(Art: Eva Hill)

“You’re a supervillain! That’s what a supervillain does!” Colbert replied.

Although the plan might sound like one of Superman archenemy Lex Luthor’s evil schemes, some scientists have suggested terraforming Mars with thermonuclear explosions. But other leading scientists have strong reservations about the idea, they told The Huffington Post.

Musk is eager to send humans to Mars, and while he told Colbert that he thinks nuking the poles would be the quickest way to make it habitable, he did indicate there were other options.

The “slow” option would involve warming the planet by pumping greenhouse gasses into its thin atmosphere. But some experts, like theoretical physicist Dr. Michio Kaku, have criticized that approach as too expensive to be feasible.

In 2011, Kaku proposed hydrogen bombs as an alternate catalyst for creating a runaway greenhouse effect on the Red Planet.

Kaku said that using nuclear weapons — or perhaps less destructively, nuclear power plants — to raise the Mars’ temperature a few degrees could help jumpstart a “chain reaction” of warming that would ultimately thicken the planet’s atmosphere and make it more Earth-like.

Such an approach would be cheaper than the alternative of planting greenhouse gas factories on Mars in order —> Read More