Jose Canseco has a plan. The lifetime .266 hitter, open-minded crossdresser, and apparent Elon Musk disciple wants to nuke Mars in an effort to turn the red, dusty planet into Waterworld. Though the motivation behind this project remains unclear, Canseco went public with his scheme last night.
Let’s break down Parkway Joe’s math.
The current best estimate is that there are 150 billion cubic meters of ice on Mars, enough to form a meter-deep ocean. So, at best, we’re making a planetary kiddie pool. Let’s be charitable and say Canseco meant to type “3”, not “36” (metric is kinda tricky after all). Proceed.
The bigger issue here is energy. For the sake of argument, let’s say we’re just trying to bring the ocean up to 32 degrees Fahrenheit, so it is an ocean and not a rink. The average Martian temp is a chilly -67, though temperatures are swingy and a lot of the water will evaporate when the sunny side’s atmosphere hits 100 percent humidity.
At any rate, we’ve got 150 billion cubic meters of water at charitably 218 Kelvin. To bring that to 273 K (the ice is still solid, but we’re at the right temp) would take about 1.6 x 1016 kJ. Ice to water adds another 4.6 x 1016 kJ for the enthalpy of fusion, for a total of 6.2 x 1016 kJ. The biggest nuke ever, the 57 megaton Soviet Tsar Bomba, released about 2.4 x 1014 kJ. Canseco’s plan would take at least 260 Tsar Bombas.
Of course, this ignores the likelihood the ice is colder than laid out here, that the explosions wouldn’t transfer energy equally to the ice cap, and that we don’t have a couple hundred Soviet monster bombs just laying about . The biggest U.S. nuke, the B83, has a yield of 1.2 megatons, which means that if Jose is running a U.S. mission he’d need to launch something like 12,000 interstellar B83 warheads. We only have about 7,000 warheads, and not all are B83s.
Still, maybe if we teamed up with everyone’s favorite maniacal Russian leader we could make this Waterworld-John Carter mashup a co-production. Canseco can get an executive producer credit.