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Elon Musk says giant mirrors will warm up Mars and make it habitable for humans

Anthony Cuthbertson
Elon Musk has plans to make Mars habitable for humans: Mars One

Elon Musk has suggested a way to make Mars habitable for humans that does not involve detonating thermonuclear weapons on the planet.

The SpaceX boss has previously described Mars as a "fixer upper of a planet" and claims that dropping nuclear weapons over the poles would warm it up and transform it into an Earth-like planet. Earlier this week, the private space company began selling t-shirts on its website with the slogan "Nuke Mars".

The plan has proved controversial, with some scientists warning that nuclear weapons could in fact throw up giant clouds into the planet's atmosphere that block out sunlight and cause it to cool down even more. A recent study published in Nature Astronomy also claimed that "terraforming Mars is not possible using present-day technology".

Undeterred by these projections, Mr Musk now claims there is more than one way to warm up the Red Planet. His latest plan involves a system of giant mirrors that would orbit Mars reflecting sunlight onto its surface.

"Might make sense to have thousands of solar reflector satellites to warm Mars vs artificial suns," he tweeted.

This is not the first time such an idea has been proposed. In 2006, Nasa awarded a fellowship to a student at the University of Arizona to study "the use of large aperture, lightweight orbital mirrors for 'terraforming' an area of the martian surface so humans could affordably colonise the Red Planet".

Mr Musk has consistently claimed that colonising Mars is vital to the long-term survival of humanity and several of SpaceX's rockets and spacecraft are being developed with the eventual goal of transporting humans to Mars.

The planet's atmosphere and climate make it difficult for plants to grow or humans to live without building costly structures.

Despite floating the idea of mirrored satellites, Mr Musk still claims that the "fast way" to solve the habitability problem is through nuclear weapons.​

He went on to explain why detonating weapons on Mars would not actually result in deadly radiation making the planet uninhabitable.

"Nuke Mars refers to a continuous stream of very low fallout nuclear fusion explosions above the atmosphere to create artificial suns," he wrote. "Much like our sun, this would not cause Mars to become radioactive."

SpaceX did not respond to a request for comment from The Independent.