Over the past month Elon Musk has continued to debate skeptics over the feasibility of terraforming Mars. This week he met privately with a range of professionals from across the Aerospace sector in preparation for the project.
In March 2018 his aerospace company Space-X began constructing what could be the largest rocket in history. Their “Interplanetary Transport System” or “Big Falcon Rocket” is supposed to have an Earth-to-orbit capacity of 150,000 kg (330,000 lb) and testing is expected to begin by early 2019
This month Elon Musk was met with a slew of discouraging articles after a new study came out claiming that there isn’t enough carbon dioxide in the Martian rocks or atmosphere to support terraformation.
However Musk continued to defend the proposal explaining how we could fire nuclear weapons at the north and south pole melting the frozen carbon dioxide in order to trigger positive climate change.
He also proposed a less explosive option – creating “tiny pulsing suns over the poles [that are] above the planet, not on the planet.”
“These would “gasify frozen carbon dioxide, thicken the atmosphere and warm up the water and all of that would have a greenhouse effect, a cascading effect, to continue warming up the planet.”
Critics like Jakosky argue that their are only two methods for releasing such gases.
The first would be to inject chlorofluorocarbons in to the atmosphere, inducing climate change while the other would involve positioning a gigantic mirror as big as the day side of Mars to warm up the planet.
Jakovsky claims that both of these ideas are centuries away
Musk responded by citing a 1993 paper, written by Robert M. Zubrin of Martin Marietta Astronautics and Christopher P. McKay of the NASA Ames Research Center. The research article claims that humans could use today’s technology to transform the planet and develop a suitable atmosphere.
“There is positive feedback- we warm Mars a few degrees C with CF4. this will cause CO2 to outgas from the soil,”
The articles author – Zubrin supported Musk on Twitter stating “That will warm Mars more, releasing more CO2, resulting in a runaway greenhouse effect. Contrary to Jakowsky, the required CO2 is almost certainly there.”
“If the soil contains one percent adsorbed CO2 by wt, it will contain enough CO2 in the top 200 m to give Mars a 300 mb (5 psi) atmosphere – same pressure as Skylab – or Mt Everest. No need for spacesuits on such a Mars.”
Musk is planning two cargo missions to the Red Planet for 2022. The purpose of which are to “confirm water resources and identify hazards” as well as erect a “power, mining, and life support infrastructure” in place for the next mission set for 2024.
This week the Italian Space Agency discovered a lake of liquid water beneath the Martian South Pole. Perhaps one of those preliminary missions would be well suited to confirm these findings.
In the second mission two manned Big Falcon Rockets and two cargo haulers will ship more equipment and supplies for the construction of a propellant production plant
According to Ars Technica Musk sent out a batch of private invitations to around 60 scientists, engineers, and leadership representatives from NASA’s Mars Exploration Program inviting them to the University of California Boulder for “active discussions regarding what will be needed to make these missions happen.”
The meeting will be hosted by principal SpaceX Mars development engineer Paul Wooster, senior Mars development engineer Margarita Marinova, and former NASA technologist Bobby Braunt, who has partaken in several past SpaceX projects and is now dean of the CU Boulder College of Engineering and Applied Science.
NASA has recently chosen 5 winners for Phase 3 Level 1 of their Mars habitat contest. One of which is an automated spider like module that can seal to the ground print an entire habitat and then get up and walk to a new location. It will be interesting to observe how Elons transportation and infrastructure blend in with NASAs more crowd-sourced innovations. Perhaps some of the first Big Falcon Rockets to visit Mars will include these modular habitats.