In his interview with Stephen Colbert on Late Night with Stephen Colbert on Wednesday night, Elon Musk outlined his – somewhat villainous sounding – plan for turning Mars into a more hospitable planet. You can watch the full video below, but we’ll start with a transcript of the important parts.
“Well, there’s the fast way,” Elon pauses, “and the slow way,” ending with a grin.
“Okay…um…give me the fast way,” Stephen Colbert says probingly.
“The fast way is,” Musk chuckles, “is to drop thermo-nuclear weapons over the poles,” finishing with a confident and matter of fact, Musk head nod.
“You’re a super villain,” Colbert surmises, “That’s what a super villain does.” Musk sheepishly agrees.
All kidding aside, Musk is right, one of the reasons that Mars is such an inhospitable place for humans is because of A) the temperature, and B) the pressure, or lack thereof, in the atmosphere. In some places, during certain times of the year like a mid-summer’s day, temperatures can reach a balmy 70 degrees Fahrenheit. However, because of the lack of atmosphere the temperature might drop to -100 degrees Fahrenheit at night.
On Mars, though, there exists a supply of dry ice, or carbon dioxide in its solid form, which, if warmed, would induce a feedback loop. Carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, is released into the atmosphere thus inducing a warming effect, releasing more carbon dioxide and so forth. This temperature rise and also thickening of the atmosphere would create a habitat much more suitable for life. The atmospheric pressure would be close to the atmosphere at the top of Mount Everest. In short, humans could walk without a pressure suit.
Musk’s, seemingly farfetched, method of warming Mars is actually one of the ways scientists have entertained to warm the surface of the planet. Elon’s “slow way”, would be to either create greenhouse gases in the same way we are doing on Earth, or to ship some of our excess greenhouse gasses, which we have an exceeding amount of, to Mars.
It seems a little ironic that the excess of greenhouse gases on Earth presents the biggest threats to human life in history, yet could also be the key to our long term survival on another planet. What do you think? Are you in favor of the idea of terraforming Mars? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below, or on social media!Source: Fortune