NASA Wants To Build A Magnetic Shield Around Mars To Restore Its Atmosphere

Posted: Mar 7 2017, 6:50am CST | by , Updated: Mar 7 2017, 11:35pm CST, in News | Latest Science News

 

NASA Wants to Build a Magnetic Shield Around Mars to Restore its Atmosphere
At one time, Mars had a magnetic field similar to Earth, which protected its atmosphere from being stripped away. Credit: NASA
 

NASA researchers believe an artificial magnetic shield could make Mars habitable and help humanity's quest to colonize Mars

NASA scientists have proposed a unique strategy to regain Mars’ early wetter atmosphere. By building a giant magnetic shield around the planet, space agency believes they can protect Mars from space radiation and make it more habitable for humans. 

Mars today is cold and bone dry but evidences suggest that it was once warm and wet, much like Earth. The planet also had a magnetic field similar to what we have on our planet today.

Roughly 4.2 billion years ago, its magnetic field suddenly disappeared. As a result, Mars gradually lost its atmosphere and went from being a warmer, wetter environment to the cold, uninhabitable place we know today.

Without this atmosphere, Mars will continue to be a cold, dry place where life cannot flourish and sustain. To address this issue, a panel of researchers attending NASA's Planetary Science Division (PSD) community workshop at Washington this week, presented an ambitious idea and suggested that by positioning a magnetic shield at the Mars L1 Lagrange Point, an artificial magnetosphere could be formed that would cover the entire planet, thus shielding it from solar wind and radiation. Though researchers acknowledge that the idea might sound a bit “fanciful,” but it is applicable and necessary if humans are aiming to colonize Mars in near future.

To test the idea, researchers have conducted a series of simulations using their proposed artificial magnetosphere and found it is strong enough to counter solar wind and space radiation. Researchers estimate that deployment of artificial magnetic field could lead to restore 1/7th of Mars' oceans that were covering the planet’s surface billions of years ago.

“A greatly enhanced Martian atmosphere, in both pressure and temperature, that would be enough to allow significant surface liquid water would also have a number of benefits for science and human exploration in the 2040s and beyond," said Dr. Jim Green, who  proposed the idea of launching a magnetic shield to protect Mars’ atmosphere. 

"Much like Earth, an enhanced atmosphere would: allow larger landed mass of equipment to the surface, shield against most cosmic and solar particle radiation, extend the ability for oxygen extraction, and provide "open air" greenhouses to exist for plant production, just to name a few."

If carbon dioxide in the Red Planet’s atmosphere would help to trap heat like it does on Earth, it will melt planet’s icy water and allow liquid water flow in its surface. Maintaining liquid water is an important indicator of supporting life on a planet's surface. And if this happens, it would certainly help pave the way for Mars colonization within the space of few decades.

 

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.

 

 

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