It sounds far fetched even for the plot of a sci-fi film.
NASA scientists have proposed a radical idea to launch a magnetic field around Mars, with hopes it could protect the red planet from intense solar wind and allow humans to explore alongside rovers.
Jim Green, NASA’s Planetary Science Division Director, revealed the idea today at the Planetary Science Vision 2050 Workshop in Washington DC.
The proposed plan would put Mars inside a protected ‘magnetotail,’ which would help it to rebuild the atmosphere that has been stripped from it by an influx of solar particles.
Doing this would create an environment that otherwise wouldn’t emerge for 700 million years, allowing one-seventh of the ancient ocean to return.
The workshop held at the NASA headquarters in Washington DC aims to identify goals that could potentially be implemented before 2050.
One such idea is a plan to induce a climate that could support human exploration of Mars.
About 90 percent of its atmosphere has been stripped away by solar wind, Green explained.
The Maven space probe has revealed that the atmosphere is losing about 1.3 kilograms per second of ‘important oxygen.’
Eventually, the temperature will rise to a point that allows the CO2 cover atop the polar cap to sublimate, returning to the atmosphere and enhancing the greenhouse effect.
Subsequently, this would free the water underneath.
But, this could take more than 700 million years.
The plan revealed by Green would kickstart the process, and ‘help mitigate some of the extremes.’
The proposal would create a dipole field –a pair of equal and oppositely charged magnets – in an orbit between Mars and the sun, at a point known as Mars L1.
This ‘artificial magnetic field’ would put Mars inside a ‘magnetotail,’ protecting it from the harsh solar wind.
Without the barrage of high-energy particles, Mars’ atmosphere would begin to rebuild itself over time.
In just a matter of years, the simulations show the planet could achieve an ‘Earth comparable field.’
Increasing the pressure would cause the equator to heat up, leading the polar cap to collapse, Green says.
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