Elon Musk's new idea: Nuke Mars

Story highlights

  • Elon Musk tells Stephen Colbert that nuclear bombs could bring about Mars climate change
  • Scientists are not pleased with the idea

(CNN)Never let it be said that Elon Musk isn't full of ideas.

The man who gave us the Tesla electric car, who has big plans for his SpaceX rocket company and who has proposed the tantalizing Hyperloop dropped another bomb during his appearance on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" on Wednesday.
    Almost literally.
    Musk, a proponent of traveling to Mars, noted that the Red Planet is currently a "fixer-upper" but could be made habitable for humans.
    "First, you're going to have to live in transparent domes, but eventually, you can transform Mars into an Earth-like planet. You can warm it up," he said.
    The warming could happen quickly or slowly, he added. The quick way?
    "Drop thermonuclear weapons over the poles," Musk said.
    Colbert, who had been trying to figure out whether Musk was a superhero or supervillain, decided on the latter after the exchange -- an opinion echoed, tongue in cheek, on social media.
    Is Musk's plan feasible? Scientists were skeptical.
    "It seems possible to make it Earthlike, but there's a lot of barriers to overcome," University of Colorado atmospheric and ocean sciences professor Brian Toon told the Los Angeles Times. "Blowing up bombs is not a good one."
    In a statement to the Los Angeles paper, NASA took the high road.
    "We are also committed to promoting exploration of the solar system in a way that protects explored environments as they exist in their natural state," the space agency said.
    And Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University, told U.S. News that nuclear bombs come with their own problems.
    Instead of warming Mars, the explosions could cause nuclear winter, "wherein you generate so much dust and particles that they literally block out a significant portion of the incoming sunlight, cooling down the planet," he said.
    Musk, who told Colbert that he expects to be transporting NASA astronauts to the space station in two years, didn't address how he'd get the bombs from Earth to Mars, either -- which, given the occasional accidents involving rocketry, runs its own risks.
    Still, the mogul said he's only trying to come up with solutions.
    "I'm trying to do useful things," he told Colbert.