According to a new NASA-sponsored study, Mars terraforming is impossible with the current technology. But SpaceX’s CEO Elon Musk thinks otherwise.

When we talk about terraforming Mars, we talk about turning the red planet into humanity’s second home. That means changing the environment so that humans can live there without life support systems.

However, according to NASA, fantasies about terraforming Mars are premature. The space agency says there isn’t enough carbon dioxide on Mars to terraform the planet, according to a study released Monday. But Elon Musk disagrees, saying there’s plenty available.

SpaceX’s CEO is not giving up on his dream and has been debating over Twitter this week about whether the red planet has the right resources to support an Earth-like atmosphere.

Musk is convinced that humans could release sufficient gases from the Martian soil using the right technology.

The New Study

A study published in the journal Nature Astronomy explored two approaches to terraforming Mars. The first is to create an atmosphere sufficient for supporting liquid water on Mars’ surface so that humans could freely walk around and breathe the air. The second involves raising the planet’s atmospheric pressure, meaning humans will only need to use a small breathing apparatus rather than the massive spacesuits of today.

However, in the new study, veteran Mars expert Bruce Jakosky of the University of Colorado Boulder and Christopher S. Edwards of Northern Arizona University analyzed how much carbon dioxide is available for terraforming the Red Planet. They found Mars only holds enough carbon dioxide to create around 15 millibars of atmospheric pressure. Meaning, the red planet doesn’t have enough carbon dioxide to support either plan.

However, Musk doesn’t plan to send any humans to Mars until 2024, and a lot can change in six years.

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Thumbnail image: Artist’s concept of an astronaut working on Mars. Credit: NASA