Last month, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk had, during his appearance on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” revealed his super villainesque plan of dropping nuclear bombs over Mars’ poles to heat the planet up and make it fit for human habitation. Now, just days after NASA announced the discovery of liquid water on the red planet, Musk further clarified his comments.
“What I was talking about,” Musk reportedly said Friday, “was having a series of very large, by our standards, but very small by calamity standards, essentially having two tiny pulsing suns over the poles. They’re really above the planet. Not on the planet.”
In his comments, made during a SolarCity solar panel launch event in Manhattan, Musk said that these “suns” would need to be created using technology that doesn’t exist yet.
“So if you have two basically tiny suns over the pole that would warm up the planet,” Musk explained further. “Then you would gasify frozen carbon dioxide, thicken the atmosphere and warm up the water and all of that would have a greenhouse effect. Have a cascading effect to continue warming up the planet.”
On average, the surface temperature on the red planet is approximately minus 80 degrees Fahrenheit, with wide fluctuations in day and night temperatures. After Musk first talked about nuking the “fixer-upper of a planet,” some scientists did, in fact, say that the idea might work.
However, given the inherent unpredictability of a nuclear explosion, bombing Mars might not be the best approach.
“It's a clever idea in principle,” Michael Shara, curator of the American Museum of Natural History's astrophysics department, told NBC News last month. “Whether it would really work, I don't think anyone has worked up the physics in enough detail to say it would.”
Musk has been a vociferous supporter of humanity’s aim to colonize Mars -- terming it a kind of insurance against human extinction. In January, Musk said that he would unveil his company’s plans for reaching the red planet later this year.
“I think there is a strong humanitarian argument for making life multi-planetary,” Musk said in an interview with Aeon magazine last September. “In order to safeguard the existence of humanity in the event that something catastrophic were to happen, in which case being poor or having a disease would be irrelevant, because humanity would be extinct.”