Elon Musk says nuclear detonations are the quickest path to making the red planet habitable. But what other options are there?
Well, first there is Elon Musk’s idea – the “drop thermonuclear weapons over the poles.” (Elon Musk said this on Stephen Colbert’s new home, the Tonight Show.)
Mars wasn’t always as we now know it to be. Much like here on Earth active volcanoes used to play a vital role in atmospheric recycling add a hot core and you’ve got a magnetic field which protects you from the solar winds. But at some point on Mars, the core cooled, its magnetic field all but disappeared, the atmosphere was thinned away, and the entire planet began to freeze. So this planet that was perhaps blue and green such as the Earth became a yellowy planet.
(Picture Blue Planet & Yellow Planet)
The advantages of dropping thermonuclear weapons on its poles is that because the bombs would release heat which in turn would melt CO2 frozen at the poles which would theoretically have an immediate effect of thickening the atmosphere. Next as sunlight is trapped by the CO2 the temperature would rise. Ultimately the apparent effect would be as we wanted. Maybe.
Scientists do not necessarily agree with Elon Musk. Apparently the use of thermonuclear bombs as Elon suggests, may work, maybe not. Also, it would without a doubt change the planet’s surface. Mars could end up with what is referred to as a nuclear winter – where dust & particles block the sunlight and the planet cools as a result.
But if we can’t do that option, are there others?
Glad you asked – some are pretty generic and are what one would do in most cases on any planet, some are more Mars specific.
If one were to crash an asteroid into Mars, obviously assumes we can catch and aim, it would burn up in the Martian atmosphere releasing greenhouse gases. Of course if you want to speed it up there’s always sending a few 10-billion ton asteroids slamming into Mars. (Just one will spike the planets temperature to 5 degrees Fahrenheit.) Though I imagine that would be somewhat destructive to the planet’s surface as well.
Straight out of Science Fiction are the giant orbital mirrors constructed from Mylar. The idea is to reflect the Sun’s heat towards the planet’s poles. While it could potentially trigger a greenhouse effect, it would weigh 200,000 tons and span 214,043 kilometers which would require constructing it in space and then transporting it or constructing in space in the vicinity of Mars. It would work
On Earth way back in time there were these microbes and they helped oxygenate the Earth. Actually is was a multi-part cycle that involved a lot to work just so-. Man could likely genetically create the sort of microbe necessary for terraforming Mars.
Maybe what’s causing Global Warming (Sorry - Climate Change) could be done up there?
Of course some of these ideas would take centuries. Problem? Well, why are we going to fix Mars up if Phobos is eventually going to slam into it? (Okay, in 10 to 50 billion years, still, I’d like to think humanity will be around!)
So there are options, ideas, theories, and likely we will try some of them provided NASA gets the budget!