Elon Musk shares plans for solar reflectors, nukes to make Mars habitable for humans

But for all the reasons 'Nuke Mars' isn't a space operation already, it remains a possibility or not a probability.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, a long-time advocate of 'nuking Mars' and creating 'artificial Suns' to warm up the planet enough to sustain human colonies says he finds solar reflectors a "sensible" option to get the job done. Musk tweeted that it makes more sense to place thousands of satellites (essentially as giant mirrors) to reflect Sun's rays, rather than nuking the poles of the planet.

Musk has been positing an idea to "nuke Mars" for years now. Only recently, he showcased a Nuke Mars T-shirt on Twitter.

He now seems to have had a change of heart. "Might make sense to have thousands of solar reflector satellites to warm Mars vs artificial suns (tbd)," he tweeted Tuesday.

By artificial suns, Musk refers to his suggestion to "Nuke Mars", which he explains in a subsequent tweet.

“Nuke Mars refers to a continuous stream of very low fallout nuclear fusion explosions above the atmosphere to create artificial suns. Much like our Sun, this would not cause Mars to become radioactive,” he said.

Musk's screensaver and SpaceX's YouTube page really do say it all. Image: SpaceX

Musk's screensaver and SpaceX's YouTube page really do say it all. Image: SpaceX

Surely a nuclear experiment, wherever in space its carried out, has its risks and consequences. Musk admits that nuking Mars, too, could have risks, but nothing that isn't manageable with some real-time supervision and tweaking.

"Not risky imo & can be adjusted/improved real-time. Essentially need to figure out most effective way to convert mass to energy, as Mars is slightly too far from this solar system’s fusion reactor (the sun)," he said.

Keeping the ethical/moral dilemmas of nuking a planet aside, Nuke Mars is rooted in logic and science. Setting off a series of nuclear explosions in the planet's atmosphere will create a spike in the planet's atmospheric and surface temperature.  Apart from melting any surface ice on the planet, the action would also trigger changes in the atmospheric gases and create a mini-greenhouse effect. With an atmosphere that absorbs more solar radiation instead of letting it escape, the Red Planet could have relatively habitable temperatures going forward.

(Also Read: Building a city on Mars could cost an eighth of the global economy: SpaceX CEO Elon Musk)

But for all the reasons "Nuke Mars" isn't already an operation – space laws, ethical arguments, the expense, and the irreversible nature of the action, to name a few – the idea remains a possibility or not a probability.

Here's hoping the future Mars shuttle, Starhopper, manages a successful test hop and stops catching fire before Musk changes his mind about how he'd like to terraform Mars again.

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