Elon Musk Thinks He Can Go Full-On Lex Luthor On Mars – But NASA Thinks The SpaceX CEO Is Losing His Mind

Wednesday, 01 August 2018 - 3:51PM
Space
Mars
SpaceX
Wednesday, 01 August 2018 - 3:51PM
Elon Musk Thinks He Can Go Full-On Lex Luthor On Mars – But NASA Thinks The SpaceX CEO Is Losing His Mind
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For years Elon Musk has compared Mars to an HGTV project, calling the planet a "fixer-upper" like it's some kind of rust-colored suburban wet dream. The entrepreneur's storied obsession with the Red Planet generated so much publicity that NASA released a study on Monday highlighting the pitfalls and possibilities of terraforming the Red Planet.

Musk has already discussed his plans to colonize Mars. At the 68th International Astronautical Conference, he proposed launching unmanned cargo ships carrying supplies in 2022, to be followed by cargo ships carrying humans in 2024. After that, it becomes a matter of establishing water supplies and fuel sources to build and sustain the colonial infrastructure.

The biggest obstacle is the paper-thin Martian atmosphere: about 0.6% that of Earth. As a result, the planet cannot retain liquid water and will kill any living creature three different ways in a matter of seconds. (Immediate depressurized disembowelment, suffocation, and ultraviolet radiation… In case you were wondering.)



To create an atmosphere, massive amounts of carbon dioxide need to be released all at once to trigger a greenhouse effect. There are huge reserves of carbon dioxide trapped in both of Mars' poles.

Musk suggests dropping nuclear bombs on the polar ice caps to release these greenhouse gasses in what Stephen Colbert pointed out was a total "Lex Luthor" move.

Perhaps it was the concept of "nuke the polar ice caps" that gave NASA cause for concern – because the government agency spent your tax dollars looking into what it would take to turn Mars into a habitable host planet instead of the danger zone.

It's bad news for future SpaceX stock options and good news (so-called) for Lex Luthor. Even if we obliterate the polar ice caps, burn the soil, and strip-mine the planet all in the name of generating carbon dioxide, Mars' atmospheric pressure would still be less than 10% of Earth's.

Happily, NASA emphasizes that their results are based on present technology. They're not saying we can't terraform Mars – we just can't do it right now.


Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab
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