Why are we so shocked by Elon Musk’s idea of nuking Mars in order to make it habitable for humans?

In his appearance on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” on 9 September, Musk prompted the famous TV host to call him a super villain. His nonchalant answer to the question of how to fix up Mars in order to make it more Earth-like the fast way (“Drop thermonuclear weapons over the poles”), got everybody excited. The issue that was seriously debated in scientific circles for some time now suddenly became a bombshell which sent ripples throughout the scientific community and various groups of concerned citizens.

We have nuked the Earth on multiple occasions so far, so why does it sound so outrageous to try to make our sister planet habitable for life forms originated on our own planet by means of thermonuclear explosions? We don’t care too much about disappearing plant and animal species on our own planet, let alone some never-heard-of viruses or bacteria, but we will all unanimously stand up in defense of a desolate place dozens of million miles away. To me it sounds somewhat hypocritical.

As long as you’re wasting huge amounts of Earth’s resources to live like one of the real 21’st century folks, not carrying a bit (or do – just verbally) about the state of the only place we call home that we will leave to the future generations, raising your voice about the preservation of a natural state of a barren planet, which, by the way, holds a promise of a new start for the humanity and many other species that are, or will be any time soon on the verge of extinction here on the planet Earth, doesn’t seem genuine.

It is clear to everyone that sooner or later we’ll need another place for a human race. We are now over seven billion, and our mother planet won’t be able to sustain us for much longer. Natural disaster coming from the outer space is a constant threat to our existence. New viruses emerging from a permafrost (caused by a global warming), or ones created in a madman’s lab can wipe out most of us in a matter of months, not to mention other End-of-the World scenarios.

To be clear, I’m not a paranoid Doomsday Prepper. I may have a can or two of tuna in my kitchen cabinet and a three-day-worth supply of food in my fridge, and I don’t think some exotic things are about to happen to our species any time soon, but better safe than sorry, right.

We need a Plan B. So far, we have not been in a situation to do anything about it, but a recent rate of technological advancement we are experiencing is giving us high hopes that this won’t stay like that for long.


Nuking it is the fastest and the cheapest way of terraforming Mars. Melting the ice on its poles and evaporating some of it into the Martian atmosphere could jump-start climate changes on this planet, which would, eventually, support life as we know it. Other methods which have been taken into consideration, like giant mirrors in the orbit around Mars which would reflect sunlight and heat up its atmosphere, or factories producing huge amounts of greenhouse gases, require more developed technology, greater resources and a lot of time, say many millennia.

The biggest concern about the nuclear option is a residual radiation from thermonuclear blast, which could make Mars a dangerous place to live in for many years. However, first couple of generations would in any case be living in domes. Today, only a couple of decades after nuclear bombs have been dropped on these cities, people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki live normally. In no way one can justify the use of nuclear weapons here on Earth, but, we still have them. This could also be the greatest opportunity for the human race to get rid of the nuclear threat once and for all. Hopefully, SpaceX rockets will be made reliable enough to get nuclear weapons safely out of our atmosphere.


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