Elon Musk Wants to ‘Nuke Mars’ for Humans to Live—But There Is One Problem

This artist impression image released by European Space Agency (ESA) shows Mars Express in orbit around Mars.

This artist impression image released by the European Space Agency (ESA) shows a Mars Express satellite in orbit around Mars. ESA /Illustration by Medialab

Firing nuclear weapons at Mars might have been the last idea on Elon Musk’s mind before going to bed last night. “Nuke Mars!” the Tesla and SpaceX CEO tweeted Thursday night a few minutes past midnight, prompting a Twitter frenzy with over 100,000 likes by Friday morning.

Space fans who regularly follow Musk’s Mars colonization plan are no stranger to this sensational declaration.

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In fact, Musk has been talking about nuking the red planet since 2015. He first floated this idea on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert back in September 2015, saying it would be the most efficient way to warm up Mars and make it more habitable for human life.

He later clarified that the plan is not to drop nuclear bombs on the surface of Mars, but in the sky above its two poles. Specifically, Musk wants to drop hydrogen bombs (which use fusion) into the atmosphere above the Martian poles every few seconds to release the carbon dioxide trapped inside Mars’ ice caps.

Because CO2 is a potent greenhouse gas, the more CO2 Mars can release into the atmosphere, the warmer the planet’s surface will be. The effect is similar to how the fusion process inside the sun produces energy to keep Earth warm.

“A lot of people don’t appreciate that our sun is a large fusion explosion,” Musk said at an event in 2015 shortly after appearing on the Colbert show.

There is one problem, though. Last year, a study on the possibility of using CO2 to terraform Mars published by Nature Astronomy found that Musk’s plan wouldn’t be feasible with today’s technology because there isn’t enough CO2 trapped on Mars to achieve the intended effect. Mars’ gravity is also not strong enough to retain vaporized CO2 in its atmosphere over time.

But at least we are getting “nuke Mars”-themed T-shirts in the foreseeable future. “T-shirt soon,” Musk tweeted last night shortly after his “nuke Mars” post.

Elon Musk Wants to ‘Nuke Mars’ for Humans to Live—But There Is One Problem