NASA’s proposed plan launches a magnetic field around Mars in an attempt to shield the red planet from the harsh solar wind. The plan aims to put Mars inside a ‘magnetotail’ to help reconstruct the atmosphere. The goal, according to a workshop held at NASA headquarters in DC is to create an environment capable of supporting human exploration and habitation by 2050.
Jim Green, NASA’s Planetary Science Division Director, believes that with the magnetic field surrounding Mars, the temperature will eventually rise causing the CO2 cover on the polar caps to melt and redirect into the atmosphere triggering the greenhouse effect. The ice on the planet’s surface would melt and theoretically restore one-seventh of planet’s ocean. However, it would take around 700 million years to reach that level so let’s not hold our breath.
Despite its barren, wasteland appearance Mars has potential. Everything needed for successful terraforming is there. There is water in the soil and frozen in the polar caps, and there is evidence of an atmosphere, that could sustain oceans and perhaps even life.
However, the red planet is constantly being hit by solar radiation. Radiation of this kind would likely cause deadly cancers and mutation for humans. According to Green, his artificial magnetosphere could hypothetically shield the Red planet from the deadly solar winds lessening the deadly radiation. Green explains:
"It may be feasible that we can get up to these higher field strengths that are necessary to provide that shielding," We need to be able then to also modify that direction of the magnetic field so that it always pushes the solar wind away."
Potentially fanciful, experiments generating miniature magnetospheres are ongoing and if all goes as Green predicts Mars may start to rebuild some of its Earth-like qualities within a matter of years.
"This is not terraforming as you may think of it where we actually artificially change the climate, but we let nature do it, and we do that based on the physics we know today," Green said.
NASA claims, that if Green’s plan worked, Mars would be liveable in the next century. According to green’s researchers:
"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' green-houses to exist for plant production.”
Green’s theories are just that, but if all goes to plan humankind could be colonising Mars, growing food and terraforming in the century. Green remains optimistic:
The solar system is ours, let’s take it
Watch Neil Degrasse Tyson explain how Magnets affect Earth in Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey below:
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