On September 27, Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and SpaceX, announced his most detailed plan to colonize Mars. He touts that he would be able to send people to Mars at the cost of $200,000 a person. Yet, underneath the sparkly idealism, hide the facts.
Musk claims he can make Mars habitable by nuking the poles. The only problem is that bombing Mars would “sort of Chernobyl-ize the whole planet,” explained Christopher Impey of the University of Arizona. Simply put, nuking Mars would indeed warm the planet, but at the same time make the planet radioactive and purely hazardous to human life. Clouds of radiation would spread across the planet destroying any possibility for long term human colonization. Additionally, even with the argument that humans could live in isolated domes, these would soon be threatened by the spread of radiation. The top-soil of Mars, the source of water and resources that would make living on Mars possible, would radioactive and simply unusable. Future colonies would simply not survive on a planet that has been nuked to death.
Additionally, Musk claims that he can make the trip to mars within a few months. Although very improbable within the presented timespan of six years, the mission itself is currently impossible simply because of the radiation in space. Unlike on Earth, with its magnetic shielding, ozone and atmosphere mostly protects us from harmful radiation, in form in gamma rays. Several meters of lead can prevent radiation only because it is so heavy and dense. There are no practical ways to send a rocket in a space that is that heavy, and can protect from harmful radiation.
These tiny energized particles from solar flares and deep-space cosmic rays have the potential to kill and damage reproduction far into the future. But those are speculation, because simply there is not enough information on how space affects the human body.
Elon Musk, when answering this dilemma that has stumped NASA for decades casually answered that, “There’s going to be some risk of radiation, but it’s not deadly… I think it’s relatively minor…. The radiation thing is often brought up, but I think it’s not too big of a deal.” Although simple economics would speak that when Elon Musk decides to get on the first mission to Mars he would have to pay the price of radiation that is simply “not too big of a deal,” except Musk does not plan to take any rocket into orbit – he plans to use others.
“The first journey to Mars is going to be really very dangerous. The risk of fatality will be high,” Musk easily answered. “Are you prepared to die?”
And this raises several ethical questions of whether or not the means justify the end. Another problem is that the above problems that Elon Musk seemed to glance over, sends mixed messages about motivation. It seems that Elon Musk is playing his usual game of overhyping his mission, with nothing to back them.
As usual, Elon Musk’s head is in the clouds and focused entirely on a desire to be first. He has so many dreams. Except in real life when people die and promises are broken, there is no such thing as waking up from a night terror.
Using nukes on Mars and sending astronauts to a near certain death don’t sound like a sound business plan. Musk has argued that he will request a public-private partnership putting the taxpayers’ money also at risk. Musk’s ideas seem too risky for any government to invest in.