In a tweet last Thursday (19), billionaire Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, announced another of his ambitious projects: to create a colony on the planet Mars, which should have up to one million humans by 2050, living “in domes glass at the beginning”.
According to Musk, whose company last week transported four astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS), the new venture will involve terraforming, a concept long suggested by scientists and science fiction authors who speculate that humans could breathe on the surface. open planet red.
Recognizing that a hypothetical terraforming would be too slow to deploy, Musk complemented his post by saying, “However, we can establish a human base there while we’re alive. At least a future space civilization discovering our ruins would be impressed by how far away the humans arrived”.
Life in glass domes at first. Eventually, terraformed to support life, like Earth.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 18, 2020
What would the terraforming process on Mars look like?
Terraforming an entire planet is a process that would require modifying the atmosphere, temperature, ecology and topography so that it could support an ecosystem like Earth’s. While it’s a purely hypothetical concept, Musk is right that it would be a very slow process.
Based on a statement by Musk about the possibility of blowing up the poles of Mars to increase the planet’s atmospheric pressure, inventor and programmer Robert Walker did a math exercise on his blog Science 2.0 last year, and concluded that it would take 3,500 nuclear warheads a day to melt the Red Planet’s polar ice caps.
The problem is that this activity would generate an amount of radiation that would make the planet’s surface uninhabitable. Also the possibility of releasing “trapped” carbon dioxide was refuted by a team of NASA scientists who, in a study published in the journal Nature Astronomy in 2018, said there was not enough of that chemical compound on Mars to increase atmospheric pressure.
Even with scientific evidence, Elon Musk is not let down and recognizes that building a city on Mars would be an arduous, dangerous and difficult task, but complete: “It’s not for the faint of heart, as there’s a good chance you’ll die. […] But it will be very glorious if it works out”.