Published: Wed, March 08, 2017
Research | By Jennifer Evans

Forget Tents, NASA Proposes Magnetic Shield for Mars

Forget Tents, NASA Proposes Magnetic Shield for Mars

Nasa plans to build an artificial magnetosphere to shield Mars from solar wind.

Moreover, Mars ranks just behind Venus as the easiest planet to reach from Earth - although Venus' extreme conditions (such as a surface temperature of 462 °C; 863 °F) likely preclude it from ever hosting human life.

In a talk entitled, "A Future Mars Environment for Science and Exploration" given at the recent Planetary Science Vision 2050 Workshop in Washington DC, Green discussed a magnetic shield which would be launched into stable orbit between Mars and the sun at a position known as the Mars L1 Lagrange Point. NASA has collected important information from its MAVEN space mission and scientists are already aware that Mars supported water bodies and channels in the past.

Mars seems to be humanity's best bet for a colony outside Earth, though the Red Planet is notoriously inhospitable due to a lack of atmosphere and a barren landscape.

An artificial magnetosphere could be formed that would encompass the entire planet, thus shielding it from solar wind and radiation, he said. Evidence gathered by the Mars rovers suggests the planet enjoyed a temperate climate and flowing liquid water on its surface about 3.5 billion years ago. In absence of magnetic field, the planet isn't able to hold gases near to its surface.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, who has earlier expressed his intention to bring people to the Red Planet, also has an idea that could terraform Mars.

According to Green, if scientists are capable of launching a "magnetic shield" forming a safeguard between Mars and the atmospheric loss into the solar wind, it could possibly make the planet feasible for human existence. NASA recently proposed a unique strategy that shows a promising solution that could address some of these issues: a magnetic shield. "This situation then eliminates numerous solar wind erosion processes that occur with the planet's ionosphere and upper atmosphere allowing the Martian atmosphere to grow in pressure and temperature over time", the researchers informed.

How the solar wind strips the atmosphere on Mars. It would help the planet slowly restore its atmosphere. Once CO2 is released in the atmosphere, it could increase the temperature of the planet further. The planet is similar to Earth in many ways, too - a Martian day is 24 hours, 39 minutes and 35.244 seconds, Mars' surface area is 28.4% of Earth's (only slightly less than the amount of dry land on Earth), and the planet's similar axial tilt means it has seasons much like Earth's - although they are almost twice as long, as a Martian year is about 1.88 Earth years. Green argued, would allow for human explorers to study the planet in much greater detail, and help determine its habitability, since numerous elements that pointed towards Mars being habitable in the past would slowly seep back into and onto the planet's environment. Ultimately it would mean Mars could begin restoring its atmosphere, 90 per cent of which has been stripped away by solar particles.

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