Elon Musk Thinks World War III Could Prevent a Mission to Mars

Monday, 14 December 2015 - 4:01PM
Science News
Mars
Monday, 14 December 2015 - 4:01PM
Elon Musk Thinks World War III Could Prevent a Mission to Mars
A mission to Mars has been the white whale of space exploration for years now, and with the discovery of water on Mars and the increasing public support, it looks more and more likely that a manned mission to the Red Planet will occur within our lifetimes. But according to Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk, there's no time to waste, as unforeseen obstacles could prevent us from getting there. Like World War III, for example.

In a recent interview with GQ, Musk stated that our civilization might have a limited window in which we are technologically advanced enough to reach Mars:

Opening quote
"There's a window that could be opened for a long time or a short time where we have an opportunity to establish a self-sustaining base on Mars before something happens to drive the technology level on Earth below where it's possible," he said.
Closing quote

As a result, we would need to establish a self-sustaining base before some cataclysmic event eliminated our capacity to reach Mars, such as a third world war:

Opening quote
"I don't think we can discount the possibility of a third World War," Musk said. "You know, in 1912 they were proclaiming a new age of peace and prosperity, saying that it was a golden age, war was over. And then you had World War I followed by World War II followed by the Cold War. So I think we need to acknowledge that there's certainly a possibility of a third World War, and if that does occur it could be far worse than anything that's happened before. Let's say nuclear weapons are used. I mean, there could be a very powerful social movement that's anti-technology. There's also growth in religious extremism. Like, I mean, does ISIS grow…?"
Closing quote

After making these alarmist comments, Musk set out to clarify some semi-alarming comments he made recently about terraforming Mars by dropping nuclear weapons on its poles. After nuking Mars, he claimed, the atmosphere would become warmer, which would turn the ice into water and allow plant life to be introduced, potentially making the planet habitable. In this most recent interview, he clarified that he didn't exactly want to nuke Mars, but rather place a small fusion bomb that repeatedly detonates at both poles.

Opening quote
"Not really nuclear weapons," he said. "I think a lot of people don't realize that the sun is a giant fusion explosion. And we're only talking about duplicating that in small form on Mars, essentially having tiny pulsing suns. There would be no radiation or mushroom clouds or fallout or anything like that."
Closing quote

There are many ethical issues when it comes to terraforming Mars, especially if life is found in the liquid water we've discovered there. But Musk claims that any moral questions are a moot point, as it doesn't seem likely at this point that there is currently extant life on Mars.

Opening quote
"There's certainly no moral issue if there's no life," he insists. "I mean, in fact, it would be, I think, sort of immoral not to do it, if it meant preservation of life on Earth as we know it."
Closing quote

But in either case, Musk says, the decisions surrounding terraforming would fall to the humans who will ultimately live there.

Opening quote
"This would be up to the Martians."
Closing quote
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