The idea of humans being able to live on Mars, or at least having the means to explore our closest planetary neighbor up close and personal for long stretches, has always been within the realm of science fiction. But a scientist from NASA, along with his fellow researchers, has proposed an idea that could finally make it possible. According to this scientist, we only need to deploy a magnetic shield around Mars to restore its atmosphere and make it habitable to humans.Speaking at the Planetary Science Vision 2050 Workshop (which aims to discuss space projects that could be carried out at least starting the year 2050) at the NASA headquarters in Washington, NASA's Planetary Science Division (PSD) Director James Green explained how the organization can carry out the extraordinary plan of launching a "magnetic shield" to a stable orbit between the sun and Mars, shielding the planet from solar winds and radiation. This, in turn, can make it possible for crewed missions to carry out daily explorations of the planet without the risk of radiation exposure and asphyxiation, the Independent reports. The magnetic shield would be made of a large dipole powerful enough to generate an artificial magnetic field that would encompass the entire planet.
Once the shield is installed and stabilized, Mars can slowly regain its atmosphere, making it habitable for human explorers in a matter of years.
"This new research is coming about due to the application of full plasma physics codes and laboratory experiments. In the future it is quite possible that an inflatable structure(s) can generate a magnetic dipole field at a level of perhaps 1 or 2 Tesla (or 10,000 to 20,000 Gauss) as an active shield against the solar wind."The consensus among scientists dictates that Mars once had a magnetic field strong enough to preserve its atmosphere, but it suddenly dissipated roughly 4.2 billion years ago. In the next 500 million years, Mars gradually became colder and more dry, making it incapable of sustaining life.
Green and his fellow researchers also claimed that they have made calculations that point to the possibility of restoring 1/7th of Mars' oceans -- the same amount it had lost billions of years ago. If this sounds like a serious proposal on how best to terraform Mars, then these researchers have done an excellent job.
"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 Green. "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."
Popular Mechanics reports that according to simulation models, a magnetic shield could help Mars reach half the atmospheric pressure of Earth in just a matter of years. With solar winds out of the way, the frozen CO2 at Mars's polar ice caps would begin to sublimate, or turn into gas, Once the greenhouse effect takes effect on Mars' thin atmosphere, specifically at the equator, the massive stores of ice under the poles would start to melt and fill the world with liquid water.
In another Mars-related research entitled "A Future Mars Environment for Science and Exploration," the current situation on Mars is detailed as follows.
"Today, Mars is an arid and cold world with a very thin atmosphere that has significant frozen and underground water resources. The thin atmosphere both prevents liquid water from residing permanently on its surface and makes it difficult to land missions since it is not thick enough to completely facilitate a soft landing. In its past, under the influence of a significant greenhouse effect, Mars may have had a significant water ocean covering perhaps 30 percent of the northern hemisphere."[Featured Image by Handout/Getty Images]