NASA mulls magnetic shield to make Mars habitable

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US space agency NASA has an innovative project that it is mulling over to make Mars habitable and it involves a giant magnetic shield.

Scientists at NASA have proposed launching a massive magnetic shield into space and positioning it such that it protects Mars from solar winds eventually helping favorable conditions prevail on the planet for life to evolve or make it habitable to the extent that humans can live there.

The plan was proposed through a presentation delivered at the Planetary Science Vision 2050 Workshop in Washington, DC last week. The giant magnetic shield will be positioned between Mars and the Sun such that it could help the Red Planet restore its atmosphere and make it suitable for humans to colonise in the future.

Launching an “artificial magnetosphere” into space between Mars and the Sun could hypothetically shield the Red Planet in the extended magnetotail that trails behind the protective field, NASA’s Planetary Science Division director Jim Green was quoted as saying.

This will effectively eliminate many of the 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.

Studies have indicated that Mars could have had a thick atmosphere in the past necessary to maintain liquid water, and a warmer, potentially habitable climate, but collapse of the protective magnetic field billions of years ago eventually made Mars a barren place. Mars now appears to be a cold desert world and it has no global magnetic field. The cold temperatures and thin atmosphere on the Red Planet do not allow liquid water to exist at the surface for long. But it might not have been always so.

NASA believes that a powerful-enough magnetic shield could serve as a replacement for Mars’s own lost magnetosphere. However, the researchers believe that the magnetic shield could help Mars regain some of its lost Earth-like habitability within the space of a couple of generations.

If the concept does prove workable, there’s no telling just how much it would alter the prospects of colonising Mars in the future.