Giant magnetic shield could make Mars habitable: NASA

Giant magnetic shield could make Mars habitable: NASA

NASA scientists have proposed deploying a giant magnetic shield around Mars to protect its atmosphere from solar wind, that could make the red planet habitable for future generations of human colonists.

About 4.2 billion years ago, the magnetic field of Mars suddenly disappeared, which caused the red planet's atmosphere to slowly be lost to space, researchers said.

Over the course of the next 500 million years, Mars went from being a warmer, wetter environment to the cold, uninhabitable place we know today, they said.Without this atmosphere, Mars will continue to be a cold, dry place where life cannot flourish.

In addition to that, future crewed mission - which NASA hopes to mount by the 2030s – will also have to deal with some severe hazards. Foremost among these will be exposure to radiation and the danger of asphyxiation, which will pose an even greater danger to colonists.

At a recent workshop hosted by NASA's Planetary Science Division (PSD) in Washington, Jim Green, Director of NASA's Planetary Science Division suggested positioning a magnetic dipole shield at the Mars L1 Lagrange Point.

An artificial magnetosphere could be formed that would encompass the entire planet, thus shielding it from solar wind and radiation, he said. "In the future it is quite possible that an inflatable structure(s) can generate a magnetic dipole field at a level of perhaps 1 or 2 Tesla (or 10,000 to 20,000 Gauss) as an active shield against the solar wind," Green said.

The positioning of this magnetic shield would ensure that the two regions where most of Mars' atmosphere is lost would be shielded, 'Universe Today' reported. To test this idea, the research team conducted a series of simulations using their proposed artificial magnetosphere.

These were run at the Coordinated Community Modelling Centre (CCMC), which specialises in space weather research, to see what the net effect would be. What the researchers found was that a dipole field positioned at Mars L1 Lagrange Point would be able to counteract solar wind, such that Mars' atmosphere would achieve a new balance.

As a result, atmosphere of Mars would naturally thicken over time, which can lead to many new possibilities for human exploration and colonisation, they said.

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