05.09.2019 change 05.09.2019
Szymon Zdziebłowski
Szymon Zdziebłowski

Expert: Dropping nuclear bombs on Mars will not make it a life-friendly place

Photo: Fotolia Photo: Fotolia

The idea of billionaire Elon Musk to drop nuclear bombs on Mars ice caps in order to change the atmosphere of this planet is unrealisable, says Dr. Weronika Śliwa from the Copernicus Science Centre. In her opinion, no technology available today could allow to handle this task.

In recent days, billionaire and SpaceX co-owner Elon Musk has returned to promoting the idea of dropping nuclear bombs on ice caps located on Mars` poles. As a consequence, the atmosphere of the planet would be heated and thicken, which would contribute to changing the climate to resemble that on Earth. This concept is called terraforming.

"Terraforming is humanity`s dream about creating a second Earth somewhere else, transforming another celestial body. In this context, we most often think about Mars, a planet that we want to resemble our Earth, with a dense atmosphere that would protect from dangerous solar radiation, a convenient temperature and water flowing on its surface" - Dr. Weronika Śliwa from the Planetarium of the Copernicus Science Centre says in an interview with PAP.

Asked about her opinion of Musk`s idea of terraforming, she expresses scepticism: "It is a concept. Unfortunately, it is not very realistic for quite a prosaic reason (...) because, according to estimates of scientists specialising in Mars, there is simply not enough dioxide carbon in Mars`s polar caps. Even if it 100% was released, the Martian atmosphere would be many times thinner than Earth`s, and temperatures would not rise sufficiently" - says Dr. Śliwa. Therefore, in her opinion, using of thermonuclear charges would not have the desired effect.

Dr. Śliwa points to the second problem, which she describes as fundamental.

"We are still looking for traces of primitive life forms on Mars. It is still possible that life will be found there; probably not, but it is not impossible. In this situation, is changing this planet and risking the destruction of this possible, potential, unlikely, but still possible life, a reasonable and thoughtful action? This question must also be answered" - she emphasises.

"In fact, today`s technologies (...) do not offer a possibility of transforming the entire Red Planet into a green or blue planet, like Earth" - the expert says.

She adds that the consensus today is that if people are to live on Mars, they will mainly stay in closed bases, from which they will come out to the surface from time to time.

She mentioned two possibilities of terraformation. One is to wait for the emergence of appropriate geoengineering technologies that will be capable of significantly shaping the climate.

We can also wait longer.

"The sun is gradually, slowly but steadily getting hotter and will eventually reach such a temperature that the surface of Mars will have a much higher temperature than today, closer to the temperature of the Earth`s surface" - she explains. As a consequence, carbon dioxide accumulated in polar caps will be released into the atmosphere, which will further heat the Red Planet.

However, even if this happens, there will still be many challenges that we will face if we want to live freely on the surface of Mars, she notes.

PAP - Science in Poland, Szymon Zdziebłowski

szz/ ekr/ kap/

tr. RL

Copyright © Foundation PAP 2019