Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?

Elon Musk's Latest Idea: Let's Nuke Mars 261

KindMind writes: The Register reports that Elon Musk, in an appearance on the The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, said that to begin with, human residents on the red planet would need to live in "transparent domes." Before a move to more hospitable habitats, one needs only "to warm it up" and Musk thinks there's a fast way and a slow way to do that. The fast way "is drop thermonuclear weapons over the poles" and the slow way "is to release greenhouse gases, like we are doing on Earth."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Elon Musk's Latest Idea: Let's Nuke Mars

Comments Filter:
  • by netsavior ( 627338 ) on Friday September 11, 2015 @11:03AM (#50502731)
    I am so tired of those commie bastards. the entire planet is RED and is deserving of our nuclear wrath
  • Greenhouse gasses? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by grimmjeeper ( 2301232 ) on Friday September 11, 2015 @11:08AM (#50502775) Homepage
    Pardon me for injecting actual science but Mars doesn't have an earth like dipole magnetic field. It can't support a Van Allen radiation belt like Earth. As a result, the solar wind is not deflected as well and the atmosphere is not sustainable. So adding a bunch of greenhouse gas would be pointless as it would just be blown away by the solar wind. So yeah, it's great to dream up ideas on how to make Mars a place we can live, it's also good to come up with ideas that might actually work.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 11, 2015 @11:12AM (#50502825)

      This is often pointed out, but the thought is it took millions/billions of years for solar wind to erode away the atomosphere. Could we not produce it faster than solar wind ripped it away?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 11, 2015 @11:15AM (#50502853)

      On geologic time scales, that's true. On time scales relevant to human occupation and terraforming, it's not an issue.

      • On geologic time scales, that's true. On time scales relevant to human occupation and terraforming, it's not an issue.

        However, on the timescales relevant to human occupation and terraforming... the fallout from the (tens of?) thousands of thermonuclear weapons is very much an issue. To have any significant effect, they'll have to be either near surface (the second worst for fallout) or surface (the worst) bursts. And no, "clean" weapons won't really make much of a difference. They're only "clean" in c

    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      Sure, but everything depends on a the timeframe of your project, doesn't it? The atmosphere won't be appreciably eroded in anything like the timeframe in which modern humans have existed. There'll be plenty of time to develop ways of bringing more water to the planet.

      The bigger issue is the potential effects of living your lifetime in a continual flux of charged particles dropping down from space. There's reason to believe that spending a lot of time outside of a protective magnetosphere might lead to e

      • There'll be plenty of time to develop ways of bringing more water to the planet.

        Bring on the Later Heavy Bombardment!

    • If you would surround Mars with an earth like atmosphere right now (with some magic ofc), the solar wind would need 10 million years to reduce it to problematic levels.
      Also you seem not to know what the 'Van Allen belt' actually is.
      So bottom line, adding/reactivating the Marsian atmosphere for humans would work just fine.

  • Is Mars massive enough to have the gravitational pull to keep all of those greenhouse gases from escaping into space?

  • give da people aih!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 11, 2015 @11:14AM (#50502841)

    Dear Mr. Musk,

    on your idea to nuke the poles of Mars I was very intrigued. I would like to apply as a loyal henchman for your endeavour.

    Key characteristics:
    * no questions asked
    * red shirt preferred
    * no family ties
    * screaming capability above normal
    * natural aversion against superheroes
    * weapon experience : none, but I can look (very) scary

    Previous experience : none, but eager to learn.

    I look forward to an interview in which I can explain my qualifications further.


    D. Nachos

  • The idea here is probably to release the carbon dioxide and water vapor frozen at the poles. The problem is I don't think that there is enough carbon dioxide there, and without massive amounts of carbon dioxide the water will freeze right out. I think the only possibility is to release a tailored mix of long lived gasses that will warm Mars as much as possible.

    Mars can't possibly be kept warm without help. Many of the greenhouse gasses will break down eventually, and the solar wind will strip off even ca

  • Mars is smaller than Earth. Gravity-wise, Mars can't hold on to an atmosphere the way the Earth can. Plus solar wind, plus lack of protection from cosmic radiation.

    It would be like living on top of Everest. O2 would be scarce, and it would bleed away quickly. Plus you couldn't stay out long without radiation shielding.

    We can terraform Mars, but it would be expensive and not worth it. Easier and cheaper to do something about the runaway greenhouse issue on Venus; thin things out, reduce the atmospheric press

    • Just... What?

      We could just ... 'thin things out'. Sure. And let's not forget that Venus could 'house enough solar' to export.

      Do you even read what you type?

    • You're not thinking big enough. Venus is just like Earth only hotter. Mars is teeny tiny and doesn't have the right gravity. Both are far too close to the Sun to be safe when the Sun explodes in six gajillion years.

      No, I say we terraform Neptune. And then Saturn. Both have gravities similar to Earth, and they have a lot more space too.

      We just need to, uh, thin the atmosphere (that's easy right? How hard could it be?) and do something about the lack of a solid surface on either. Also I guess we probably

  • Hasn't anyone read the book? Those Martians have it coming...preemptive strike!

  • Because Earthlings will have to live underground on Mars.

  • The quickest way to fund the manned space program is to alert the "blow crap up" political groups in the U.S. that the Iranians hid their nukes on Mars.
  • So nukes aside, let's explore the other option... how would one produce greenhouse gasses on mars? I can't stand the bullshit rhetoric argument that we're pretty damned good at it here on earth, so it must be easy on mars..... On earth we have millions of people, on earth we have COAL, on earth we have industry driven by the consumerism of those millions of people... none of those things exist on mars. There is no energy on mars AT ALL except the sun hitting the planet, and here on earth, using the power

    • The OTHER option is to do nothing. I would expect us to explore and document how Mars is in its natural state before ever even discussing terrasforming of ANY kind. Its hubris and ego that we are even talking about it at all. The first 50 years of mars exploration should be observation and research only. After that THEN we can talk about terraforming.
      • Considering we put our first lander on Mars in 75, the first 50 years of exploration will be up in 2025. I don't think it's too unreasonable to be talking about it now.

    • So nukes aside, let's explore the other option... how would one produce greenhouse gasses on mars? I can't stand the bullshit rhetoric argument that we're pretty damned good at it here on earth, so it must be easy on mars..... On earth we have millions of people, on earth we have COAL, on earth we have industry driven by the consumerism of those millions of people... none of those things exist on mars. There is no energy on mars AT ALL except the sun hitting the planet, and here on earth, using the power of the sun has been argued as the REMEDY for greenhouse gasses! So WTF? Where does the energy and chemistry come from that will produce billions of tons of greenhouse gasses on mars? Sounds like unicorn fart futures are way up!

      Why put nukes aside? The polar icecaps hold a lot of CO2 and H2O, with enough energy we could melt them. We could use conventional explosives but nukes would be more efficient. Another option to melt them (and add heat to the system) by using a large reflector in space to direct extra sunlight to the planetary surface. Once you get to a certain point the process should start to feedback on itself, as the planetary temperature warms it would melt more ice which adds greenhouse gasses which warms the plan

      • I believe I asked for science... not speculation. Your cavalier use of the word "probably" has nothing to do with actual probability, and should probably be replaced with the word "speculatively" or "imaginatively."

  • According to some quick internet research:
    1) A 30x increase in atmosphere would be required in order to walk around with an oxygen tank unprotected without your blood boiling.
    2) Melting the polar ice caps completely would approximately double the atmospheric pressure.

    So it's unclear to me what advantage the nukes would bring.

  • Don't worry Elon, I have your Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator right here!
  • Reminds me a lot of the terraform Mars scenario in SimEarth.

    Step 1: Hit Mars with a couple of comets (brings in water and stirs up dust)
    Step 2: ...
    Step 3: Prof-... er, I mean watch the forests of Mars burn because you left your oxygen generators on for too long

  • Quit spending money on space!

    There are plenty of place on Earth we should be nuking first.

  • ...we'd hate to have it blow up prematurely.

    Sorry, I couldn't help it.

    But seriously, Elon, keep doing what you are doing. And let's worry about un-fucking this planet before we start fucking up another one.

  • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Friday September 11, 2015 @01:30PM (#50504041)
    An emergency session of the Council, something not held in the better part of a yeernak, has just concluded.

    K'Breel, Speaker for the Council of Elders, emerged from Council chambers, and addressed the planet thus:

    "IT'S HAPPENING!" thundered the Speaker's voice across the frozen plains. "The first blueworlders came in their natural static form, sending stationary representatives to orbit our world and settle onto our plains. You said that if all they could do was remain in high orbit or dig a little trench that was so tiny that any freshly-hatched podling could cover it over in an afternoon, that the obese and sedentary blueworlers were mostly harmless."

    "WE TRIED TO WARN YOU, BUT YOU DIDN'T LISTEN! Then came the mobile ones. Brave fighters for the Martian Defense Force have deflected a few of them into deep space, shot others down in fiery blazes of glory, but still the invaders came. Their mechanized terrors evolved rapidly in size and capability with every wave - the first a small short-lived rock-pushing prototype, the second two larger and armed with gelsac-shredding drills, which left a trail of destruction in their wake during yeernaks of struggle, and the latest one descended from a skyhook, powered by Pew-238, and armed with a fully operational photonic weapon system."

    "And now - now, after our atmospheric scientists have confirmed the effectiveness of their hundred-yeernak small-scale test on their own world - we have their declaration of intent to use chain reactions of core annihilation to scour the snows and release so much carbdiox that they create a greenhouse effect here - in order to saturate our elegantly-dessicated sands with the toxic and corrosive dihidrox filth that now covers three quarters of their hot, blue, gellhole of a world. THIS IS THE FUTURE YOU CHOSE!"

    "BUT YOU CAN STOP IT, PODMATES! All it takes, all it takes, podmates, is an investment in advancing the tribalism of the organic self-replicators that tend to the blueworlders. The Blueworlder Social and Physical Sciences Committee reports that the self-replicators are flawed, critically so, and tend to devolve into tribal groups prone to infighting, primitive displays of aggression, and intertribal warfare. The only flag their mechanized monsters shall raise will be our own red flags, and they will raise our flag over their own world, hoisted by their own proverbial petards. REJOICE, PODMATES! WE SHALL BURY THEM!"

    When a junior analyst reminded K'Breel that maybe the real threat was the self-replicators, and that the creatures the Council had spent a full 30% of the planetary budget fighting, were not, in fact, the primary threat -- that their rapid evolution was actually the result of the controlled and directed guidance of thousands of organic minds working in concert -- and that his report, "Organic Blueworlders Determined to Strike in Homeland" had been summarily ignored, K'Breel had the reporter's gelsacs nailed to two small white rectangular posts and promptly incinerated in carbohydrox fires. Slithering back to the Council chambers as the posts smoldered in the background, the Speaker was heard to mutter "As if a small group of thoughtful, committed organics could change the fate of the world for the better or the worse; as if it ever has..."

  • If he had said that he wanted to drill to the core of mars and inject fissionable material directly into the core to start it back up and hopefully jump start it's magnetosphere he would have had an interesting idea on bringing a dead planet back to life.

  • Am I the only one that think that Elon Musk has crossed the line from visionary to full blown nutjob?

  • by frank249 ( 100528 ) on Friday September 11, 2015 @03:37PM (#50505093)

    The surface gravity on Mars is 38% of that on Earth [wikipedia.org]. It is not known if this is enough to hold a breathable atmosphere. Additionally, the lower gravity of Mars would require 2.6 times Earth’s column air mass to obtain 100 kPa pressure at the surface. Earth's atmosphere has a mass of about 5.15×1018 kg three quarters of which is within about 11 km of the surface [wikipedia.org]. The atmosphere becomes thinner and thinner with increasing altitude, with no definite boundary between the atmosphere and outer space. The Kármán line, at 100 km, is often used as the border between the atmosphere and outer space. So the atmosphere on Mars would have to extend to 260kms to have the same surface air pressure as Earth.

    • Someone hand that man a mod-up, he put it way better than me a few posts below. This is basically the problem we face here, Mars would already have an atmosphere, if it could retain it.

  • Won't anyone think of the poor Barsoomians?
  • As I understand it, Mars has virtually no magnetic field so it receives the full brunt of the solar wind without much resistance. I recall reading (somewhere) that was theory as to why Mars doesn't have much of an atmosphere any more. If you release all/most of the CO2 in the polar ice caps, what's to stop the solar wind from stripping that away, too? Plus, what little atmosphere is left on the planet -- still enough to produce the occasional dust storm -- would then producing storms with an exciting new in

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Friday September 11, 2015 @06:19PM (#50506281)

    The idea itself is compelling, but you miss one very important little detail: Mars is WAY smaller than our planet. And I mean WAY smaller. It's a little over half the diameter of our planet. Its mass is 1/10th of the Earth's mass. Average density is 2/3 of that of our planet. Escape velocity is half of that we have here.

    The problem ain't that it cannot create an atmosphere. The problem is that it cannot retain it.

If it's not in the computer, it doesn't exist.