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Elon Musk considering solar reflectors to warm Mars over Nukes

Cleantech option better to make Red Planet habitable over blowing stuff up.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk often gets on a Twitter rampage. One minute he’s suggests we nuke Mars to speed up Red Planet warming for colonists, the next solar reflector satellites are the better approach.

While nuking Mars was sensational, there’s some pretty intriguing science behind the concept of orbital Mars mirrors.

Back in 2006 University of Arizona undergraduate Rigel Woida won a NASA prize to study “the use of lightweight, large aperture orbital mirrors to ‘terraform’ an area of the martian surface. Thus allowing humans to affordably colonise the Red Planet.”

It sounds like pure science fiction to find a way to make Mars habitable for human life. Mars gets extremely cold and would require large investments in creating secure habitats and space suits that can handle the extreme temperatures. Perhaps we could just heat it up a little?


Whilst Musk didn’t specifically point to Woida’s research, the work is similar to the reflector concept. Woida’s published report in 2007 (PDF link) details how the system might function. The concept is to place a series of orbiting satellites that would reflect the sun’s warmth down onto Mars’ surface. 

“Might make sense to have thousands of solar reflector satellites to warm Mars vs artificial suns,” Musk tweeted on Tuesday. Sounds like the the best option is still “to be determined.”

Musk also clarified what he meant by “nuke Mars,” saying it “refers to a continuous stream of very low fallout nuclear fusion explosions above the atmosphere to create artificial suns. Much like our sun, this would not cause Mars to become radioactive.”

NASA, however, doesn’t sound so enthusiastic. In mid-2018, the space agency said Mars terraforming isn’t possible using present-day technology.

Woida concludes in his paper that the concept of using reflector to heat Mars is feasible and “the engineering requirements needed to complete the heating of a small portion of Mars are attainable.” 

SpaceX and Musk have some knowledge of using satellites thanks to the Starlink broadband system concept for Earth. Musk might one day use some of SpaceX’s resources for the Mars reflector concept as the company’s next-generation Starship moves ever closer to launch. Musk of course hopes to one day colonise the Red Planet.

Could a sunny Mars be your next holiday destination with the kids?

If you need help with your business or marketing needs, contact Energetic Consulting today and start creating raving fan customers!

By Russell French – Founder of Energetic Consulting Australia

Energetic-Consulting-Founder-Russell-FrenchRussell is a veteran of the Australian renewable energy industry of 15 years and an innovative business leader with a proven track record spanning over 20 years.

He has served as a Director for several well known renewable energy companies like:

  • Enphase Energy as their APAC Director and Australian Country Manager and brought the business to Australia and setup their operations in the region
  • Sungrow ($2.2B, world largest solar inverter manufacturer in partnership with Samsung SDI) as their Marketing & Strategy Director
  • Sun Empire as Founder and Managing Director. Sun Empire was a founding company member of the Clean Energy Council of Australia.

Russell has also worked in the award winning Sustainability Strategy team for the City of Melbourne developing the city’s renewable energy and solar program, and helped develop the new Solar & Storage division for one of Australia’s largest energy retailers, Red Energy which is owned by the iconic Snowy Hydro.

He served as the Secretary & Convenor for the Melbourne Chapter of the Smart Energy Council of Australia (formerly Australian Solar Council) for 5 years and is the Founder of Solar Social, a new and innovative meet-up bringing together like minded businesses and professionals to discuss innovation and the latest technology developments.


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