A NASA scientist has presented the idea of launching a giant magnetic shield around Mars in order to restore its atmosphere and potentially make the Red Planet habitable in the future.
Mars is thought to have been temperate and to have had surface water around 3.5 billion years ago, but 90 percent of its atmosphere has been destroyed by solar particles during the planet’s lifetime.
In a talk entitled, “A Future Mars Environment for Science and Exploration” given at the recent Planetary Science Vision 2050 Workshop in Washington DC, Division Director Jim 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. It would comprise of a powerful closed electric circuit, called a dipole, that would generate the magnetic field.
This magnetic field would, in theory, provide enough protection to allow Mars to rebuild its atmosphere.
Restoring an ancient ocean
The process would be slow, but simulation models suggest that with the assistance of the shield Mars could achieve half of Earth’s atmospheric pressure in a matter of years.
Frozen CO2 at Mars’s polar ice caps, protected from solar winds, could turn from solid to gas. Mars’s thin atmosphere would be filled by the greenhouse effect, with the planet heating up around the equator.
This would result in vast stores of ice under the poles melting, with the obvious effect of liquid water flooding the environment.
“Perhaps one-seventh of the ancient ocean could return to Mars,” said Green.