NASA has plans to restore the atmosphere of Mars using a giant magnetic shield. Increasing the magnetic field of Mars could help to bring its atmosphere back and eventually make the planet habitable for humans. The man-made magnetic field created by NASA scientists would not have to cover the entire planet to work, though creating such a shield and testing it out on Mars will likely be not happen for several years.
The Earth’s magnetic field, according to Science Times, protects it from solar winds and cosmic rays besides helping to prevent the atmosphere from escaping into space. By contrast, Mars has been without its magnetic field for 4.2 billion years, or has had a greatly weakened one, at any rate. However, NASA scientists think it might be possible to restore the Red Planet’s magnetic field and bring back its atmosphere for future human colonists.
NASA scientists proposed their idea for the first time at the Planetary Science Vision 2050 Workshop. At the workshop, NASA’s Planetary Science Division director Jim Green Called it feasible that high enough magnetic field strengths can be attained, which are necessary in providing that shielding. He added that after that is accomplished, scientists need to be able to modify the magnetic field direction so it is always pushing the solar wind away.
Engadget reported that the proposed giant magnetic field would need to be established beyond the red plant, at the L1 Lagrange point. At that distance, the man-made magnetic shield would be kept at the right distance between Mars and the Sun to maintain its position.
The magnetic shield created by the NASA scientists would deflect solar winds and incoming radiation by creating an artificial magnetosphere around Mars. While creating an artificial magnetosphere around Mars will be years off, if it happens, at all, Science Alert reported that the NASA research team managed to conduct a lab simulation that suggests the plan would potentially work.
NASA researchers found that if the solar wind was “diverted by the magnetic field” the continued loss of the scant atmosphere Mars has now would stop. If that was accomplished, the atmospheric pressure on Mars would reportedly “be as much as half the atmospheric pressure of Earth.”
In addition, the NASA reasearch team estimated that the climate on Mars would become approximately 4 degrees Celsius warmer than average temperature is currently. The rise in temperature would be enough to melt frozen CO2 at the northern polar cap.
Doing that would increase the carbon in the atmosphere and “would create a greenhouse effect” on Mars, melting at least some of the ice on the planet, creating enough liquid water that could be used to sustain human life. According to PerfScience, the artificial magnetic shield proposed by the NASA scientists could restore “water and atmosphere on Mars.”
Information NASA collected from its MAVEN space mission has shown water bodies and channels were supported on Mars in the past. The magnetic field that Mars once had “would have played an important role in maintaining water and atmospheric gases on the planet,” and also would have “protected the planet from strong radiations and solar winds.” But without the stronger magnetic field Mars once had, that planet was not “able to hold gases near to its surface.”
The lab simulations of NASA scientists have suggested that inflatable structures could be used “that would create the mini-magnetosphere you’d need for this to work.” NASA scientists think the plan will work, but are not certain how long it would take for the climate of Mars to be able to support human life on the planet’s surface.
Radiation from the Sun would be immediately and rapidly deflected, but it is unclear how long it would take for the atmosphere of Mars to thicken, and for the temperature to increase enough to create liquid water and sustain long-term human colonists. Accomplishing this could take decades.
Currently, NASA’s plan to create a giant magnetic field that would help restore the atmosphere of Mars and make it habitable for humans is hypothetical and in its planning stages. Further studies are needed for the NASA researchers to have an idea how long it would take for the climate of Mars to be altered by such a proposed giant magnetic shield.
By John Samuels
Photo Courtesy NASA