Elon Musk to Stephen Colbert: Nuclear Weapons Could Terraform Mars

Sep 16, 2015

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By Sarah Fecht

Elon Musk has often been compared to Tony Stark. The billionaire entrepreneur is the brains behind SpaceX’s reusable rockets, Tesla’s electric cars, and the solar power provider SolarCity. But last night when comedian Stephen Colbert pressed Musk to decide whether he’s a superhero or a supervillain, Musk was evasive.

Now we know why. Later on in the interview, Musk admitted that he advocates detonating thermonuclear explosives on neighboring planet Mars.

The businessman has often stated that he thinks humans should colonize Mars, and now it seems he’ll stop at nothing to get his way.

“It is a fixer-upper of a planet,” Musk told Colbert. “But eventually you could transform Mars into an Earth-like planet.”


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23 comments on “Elon Musk to Stephen Colbert: Nuclear Weapons Could Terraform Mars

  • The businessman has often stated that he thinks humans should colonize Mars, and now it seems he’ll stop at nothing to get his way.

    “It is a fixer-upper of a planet,” Musk told Colbert. “But eventually you could transform Mars into an Earth-like planet.”

    As I commented earlier:-

    This is just half baked wish-thinking, with no prospects of success, the probability of destabilising Mars’ climate and surface for thousands of years, and the probability of damaging the prospects of science bases and scientific research into the history of Mars.



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  • From Popular Mechanics: Virgin Galactic proudly touts the fact that each of the passengers who will fly into sub-orbital space on its SpaceShip2 will emit less carbon dioxide than a typical air passenger on a flight from New York to London. But some scientists say carbon dioxide emissions are irrelevant to measuring the greenhouse gas footprint of the nascent space tourism industry. The big threat from the scaling-up of space travel, they say, comes from something called black carbon—a type of particulate matter that, when hurled into the stratosphere, builds up for years, absorbing visible light from the sun. According to one study, black carbon emitted into the stratosphere by rockets would absorb 100,000 times as much energy as the CO2 emitted by those rockets.
    “There’s one issue and it’s simple: you don’t want to put black carbon in the stratosphere. Period,” says Darin Toohey, a professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Industry insiders say otherwise. Who’s right?

    It is ironic that Musk’s current space tourism passion may hasten global warming through sooty carbon deposits in the stratosphere, lasting decades immune from the cleansing action of rain storms, than the puny -virtually non-existent CO2 emission reductions achieved by the Tesla and Solar City battery packs. 1,000 rockets launched into space each year could have catastrophic effects on global warming.



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  • Melvin
    Sep 17, 2015 at 2:35 pm

    It is ironic that Musk’s current space tourism passion may hasten global warming

    I think the novelty of a spot of weightlessness on a very expensive roller-coaster ride, along with posers bragging rights, will soon wear off.

    Transport for space probes, science stations and space industries, is viable is worthwhile. The novelty of dangerous tourist rides for personal amusement, will probably soon wear off at the sort of prices they are suggesting!



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  • The novelty of dangerous tourist rides for personal amusement, will probably soon wear off at the sort of prices they are suggesting!

    Right. For the same reason the “stratospheric” price point of purchasing a Tesla and the upper-middle class income required for electing to purchase the compact Nissan Leaf will relegate the total sales of battery-powered vehicles to account for less than .00000000000001% of global carbon dioxide emission reductions for the foreseeable future. Solar energy boosted by solar batteries still hold out some hope, though costs, distribution and, more decisively, population growth will probably wipe out net reductions on a global scale by 2050.



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  • Occasionally you ever-so-civilized British have given the world (bleh, heh) an English gentleman who wanted to bomb the crap out of something. Ever hear of Air Marshal Arthur Harris of the R.A.F.? Understandably you chappies had to make some dreadfully regrettable decisions way back then in order to save the British Empire
    in its finest hour.



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  • It is ironic […] catastrophic effects on global warming

    Ironic, just read an article discussing SETI, microbe search on other planets, James Webb Telescope, etc.

    One proposed idea for finding signs of intelligent ETs > try to detect an “off” atmosphere. I.e., if a planet is in flux, as Earth is in now, that could possibly indicate a civilization that has wreaked havoc.



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  • Melvin,

    Tesla are on their way to making cheaper cars and cheaper batteries, go watch a film about early automobiles, the only people who could afford them were the fabulously wealthy, now cars are affordable. More importantly Tesla’s work on developing the electric car is not dependent on batteries, if fuels cells ultimately become viable or super capacitors then they will plug right into the electric cars, Musk is using the best of current technology and making it cheaper as we speak.

    What we definitely cannot do is keep using oil. I for one look forward to being able to buy an electric vehicle, my first latter this year I hope will be an electric bike which will do for the short term.

    Your population growth argument I have some sympathy with, but not so much I think as you, the vast majority of the worlds population have a very low carbon footprint and are not likely to get a big one any time soon. It is the minority of western population that is responsible for most of the CO2.

    The third world is well placed to adopt a more modular de-centralised power consumption into the future. If you are living in some third world villiage you best methods of gaining power are a small solar cell and a couple of car batteries, this will power lights and charge some phones for you, bio-gas generators are also cheap can be made largely from locally sourced materials and are scalable and can provide cooking gas and even some power generation. They are not waiting for their local environments to be ruined from having large coal plants blatted down and power lines run to their homes, they don’t need it, and as they become more prosperous and their energy needs increase they will do so with green power because it is frankly cheaper now that building a coal plant, a nuclear plant or any other method. This is what we should be encouraging them to do, I don’t understand what your resistance is to it.



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  • bonnie
    Sep 18, 2015 at 7:52 am

    Ironic, just read an article discussing SETI, microbe search on other planets, James Webb Telescope, etc.

    One of the ironic features of these private schemes to put amateur astronauts on Mars, is that while NASA is crashing high value probes at the end of their useful lives, to burn up in the atmospheres of Saturn and Jupiter, so as to avoid the possibility of accidentally contaminating moons which may harbour life, these clowns are proposing schemes which are almost certain to contaminate Mars with Earth organisms and destroy its geological records, in the process of gimmick projects of minimal scientific value.



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  • Yes, Bomber Harris was like that, but Elon Musk’s intentions are hyper peaceful. And, er, is it your belief that he is British? No, he’s originally South African, now, I believe, an American citizen.

    I too have a Tesla, by the way, and it is BEAUTIFUL. Both to look at, and to drive. And to sail past the petrol stations looking disapproving.



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  • Why all the hostility?
    Can anyone think of a better use of nuclear weapons? Even if the terraforming of Mars is unsuccessful, every nuclear weapon not used to kill people is a nuclear weapon well-used.

    Project Orion is probably never going to happen and leaving them lying around the planet is definitely a bad idea. Considering the chance that even more nukes fall into the hands of the demented leaders of religious states–Israel, India, and Pakistan already EACH HAVE ENOUGH NUKES TO DESTROY OUR GLOBAL CIVILIZATION—what is so bad about using nuclear weapons off-planet for harmless(pointless?) applications?



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  • Mike
    Sep 20, 2015 at 3:03 pm

    Why all the hostility?

    Planning to wreck another planet, and destroy its geological history, is a VERY bad idea!

    Can anyone think of a better use of nuclear weapons?

    YES! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radioisotope_thermoelectric_generator
    RTGs have been used as power sources in satellites, space probes, and unmanned remote facilities such as a series of lighthouses built by the former Soviet Union inside the Arctic Circle.

    A common RTG application is spacecraft power supply. Systems for Nuclear Auxiliary Power (SNAP) units were used for probes that travelled far from the Sun rendering solar panels impractical. As such, they were used with Pioneer 10, Pioneer 11, Voyager 1, Voyager 2, Galileo, Ulysses, Cassini, New Horizons and the Mars Science Laboratory. RTGs were used to power the two Viking landers and for the scientific experiments left on the Moon by the crews of Apollo 12 through 17 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radioisotope_thermoelectric_generator#Nuclear_power_systems_in_space

    RTGs or reactors, could also be used to power probes deflecting large potentially Earth impacting meteors.

    Even if the terraforming of Mars is unsuccessful, every nuclear weapon not used to kill people is a nuclear weapon well-used.

    It is totally unnecessary to wreck a nearby planet to get Plutonium or Uranium, off the Earth!
    Even nuclear reactors have been test flown in space!

    Project Orion is probably never going to happen and leaving them lying around the planet is definitely a bad idea.

    Orion’s best use is probably as a support system for robotic asteroid mining.

    A much more constructive approach is to build THORIUM nuclear power-stations on Earth (you know – the ones which have a short half life for the waste, cannot blow up, and have been rejected by politicians since 1947, because they have no military applications).

    http://www.itheo.org/thorium-energy-conference-2012

    The world is waking up to the huge potential of Thorium to solve the looming energy crisis; ThEC12 in Shanghai was the event of the year for everyone with an interest in the future of Thorium Energy and its many related fields. China is taking the lead in exploring fresh approaches to nuclear fission in its quest for sustainable, environment-responsible energy that can be delivered reliably and in quantity.

    They can actually also be used to burn up uranium bomb material to generate electricity!



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  • Future generation will look at what we did to Mars if it is not successful. We could ruin it for future technologies to inhabit the planet Mars.
    We as humans will always be able to produce weapons. Getting rid of them is just the last step. We need to quit building them.
    Question: Do you think any country would use nuclear weapons on its own soil? Or against its own people?

    That’s the problem with countries and religions. Those artificial lines to separate people and the magical nonsense we call religion are the reasons why.



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  • alf1200
    Sep 20, 2015 at 4:19 pm

    Future generation will look at what we did to Mars if it is not successful. We could ruin it for future technologies to inhabit the planet Mars.

    Those living in tundra areas on Earth, are encountering problems of permafrost thawing due to global warming! – With transport being made difficult, and land surfaces collapsing!

    The water on Mars is ice, laid down as rock strata! If it was thawed land surfaces would collapse all over the place – ESPECIALLY in places where water was available for use in bases!
    Liquid water cannot exist for more than a short time on the surface of Mars so any melt, would be lost to the atmosphere – at least for the first few thousand years.

    Mars is too small, too dark, and too far from the Sun for effective terraforming, but attempts could disrupt its surface and climate for thousands of years, destroying much of its geological record in the process, along with making establishing human bases or robot stations, much more difficult!



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  • He did say there is a quick way and a slow way, he did not indicate a preference for nuclear missiles. I for one would prefer we spent the money fixing this place first, if we can’t sort that out I very much doubt we’re going to fix up another planet with worse issues. Having said that Elon is at least doing something positive about this planet which is far more than most billionaires or most of the rest of us could be bothered doing. So we should maybe cut him a bit of slack?



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  • Musk was born in Pretoria South Africa…. Does he qualify as being an American? … or (since generalised insults are being handed out) ….are South Africans even worse than Americans?



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