Four years ago, the SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk presented his idea of dropping nuclear bombs over the poles of Mars in an effort to quickly heat it up and make it habitable for humans. It looks like the idea has not left his mind even in 2019. This Friday, Musk tweeted “Nuke Mars!” and announced that T-shirts from SpaceX with the phrase written over it.
The graphics on one of the T-shirts illustrates Mars converting into a planet resembling the Earth because that is exactly what Musk believes and wants to do. The belief is that the explosion might vapourise a fair chunk of ice caps on Mars, liberating enough water vapour and carbon dioxide to warm up the planet substantially.
However, Musk might not be entirely right with his terraforming plan of nuking Mars. A study done last year published in the journal Nature Astronomy concluded that Mars doesn’t harbour enough CO2 to achieve significant warming even if all the stuff were liberated into the atmosphere. “As a result, we conclude that terraforming Mars is not possible using present-day technology,” the study said.
There is also significant scepticism around the idea of terraforming Mars. Many scientists have expressed concerns that do we have the right to fundamentally transform another world for our own purpose.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 17, 2019
Also, the nuke concept might backfire, resulting in “nuclear winter”. Climate scientist, Michael Mann of Penn State University, told US News and World Report via email in 2015 that the nuclear bomb might generate so much dust and particles on the red planet that it could block out a significant portion of incoming sunlight, resulting in cooling down the planet instead of heating it up.
Colonising Mars is a long-term goal of the SpaceX founder. While it is unlikely that humans will nuke Mars in order to warm it up, Musk’s company is going ahead with its plan to transport humans to the red planet by 2023. Currently, SpaceX is building Starship– a 100-passenger spaceship, and a huge rocket known as Super Heavy.