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Elon Musk imagines Martian cities beneath glass domes, at least until the terraforming takes

By Jeff Spry

Tesla Motors CEO and SpaceX founder Elon Musk is mesmerized by Mars, and envisions mankind as a multi-planetary species whose ultimate future lies beyond the Big Blue Marble that we currently all call home.

SpaceX's Starship transportation system has been designed to eventually launch each of its reusable Starship rockets on missions an average of three times per day, with every sleek ship loaded with a 100-ton payload per flight. A fleet of 1,000 Starships would forseeably be capable of sending up to 100,000 people to Mars every Earth-Mars orbital synch, or every 26 months. 

In Musk's vision, food for a self-sustaining Martian city would be cultivated on solar-powered hydroponic farms, both underground and in enclosed structures, and jobs would be plentiful in the settlement's "outdoorsy, fun atmosphere," as he once told Popular Mechanics.

To that end, he intends on blasting the first SpaceX rocket to Mars by 2022 on a cargo-only mission, before a crewed excursion is attempted sometime around the year 2024.


But before a true civilization can flourish under the harsh Red Planet's conditions, safe accommodations and protection for the initial round of scientists, biologists, and engineers must be installed well before Musk's ultimate goal of colonizing Mars with one million people by 2050.

In a series of Mars-related tweets this week, the visionary billionaire explained what early, baby steps would be needed to realize his dream, and it includes living within the relative comfort of giant glass domes.

The idea of a permanent, self-sustaining base of operations is essential for Musk's lofty plans to come to fruition generations from now.

Using a wild idea Musk tossed out back in 2015, the overwhelming notion of terraforming Mars would need thousands of nuclear warheads launched once a day for seven weeks straight. This would supposedly affect the polar caps and ultimately boost the planet's atmospheric pressure to levels that allow humans to breathe, melting Mars' ice to free carbon dioxide, which would be contained in the resulting greenhouses gases.


The problem, as calculated out by mathematician Robert Walker last year, is that those exploding minisuns would emit enough devastating radiation to make the Red Planet an uninhabitable, Fallout-like wasteland. Even if it succeeded, it would only raise Mars’ atmospheric pressure to seven percent of Earth’s.

Thank you, but let's just stick with a Martian landscape of glittering glass domes instead!