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A magnetic shield around Mars may make it habitable

09 March 2017

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. Doing so would thus help protect early human settlers on Mars from the harsh radiation and vaccum of space.

In a talk titled, "A Future Mars Environment for Science and Exploration,"Jim Green, NASA's Planetary Science Division Director said how although Mars today is an arid and cold world with a very thin atmosphere and frozen water resources, it's thought that the planet could once have had deep, liquid oceans and a warmer (and potentially habitable) climate".

Speaking at the Planetary Science Vision 2050 Workshop at NASA headquarters in Washington, DC, one scientist proposed the enticing idea of launching a "magnetic shield" to a stable orbit between Mars and the sun, called Mars L1, that could shield the planet from high-energy solar particles.

Dousing concerns on how Mars can be made habitable for humans despite the high radiation hazard and no water, a senior NASA scientist has floated a fearless new idea of installing a magnetic field around Mars to restore the Red Planet's atmosphere and make it habitable.

The Magnetotail refers to the wide elongated extension of the earth's magnetosphere on the side facing away from the Sun.

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Additionally, a thicker atmosphere would "shield against most cosmic and solar particle radiation, extend the ability for oxygen extraction, and provide "open air" greenhouses to exist for plant production, just to name a few". Engineers designed a shell that could be placed around a small planet which could protect the planet from radiation and help to facilitate an atmosphere over time. Protected from the solar winds, the frosted carbon dioxide present at the polar caps of Mars would transform into gas. In a plan some say is "so insane it just might work", the shield (maybe an inflatable one) would be placed at the L1 Lagrange Point.

Roughly 4.2 billion years ago, its magnetic field suddenly disappeared.

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. Jim Green estimates that one-seventh of Mars' ancient ocean could be restored. The team found that a magnetic shield would allow Mars' atmosphere to find a new equilibrium.

What about projected results from the magnetic field? It's not an impossible task considering there is already research going on into structures that would create a magnetosphere. 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.

A magnetic shield around Mars may make it habitable