NASA Plans to Establish Magnetic Shield for Martian Atmosphere



/ 3 months ago

NASA Plans to Establish Magnetic Shield for Martian Atmosphere

Unlike Earth, Mars is a cold, dry and barren place but it was not always that way. About 4.2 billion years ago it had an atmosphere but its magnetic field suddenly disappeared as solar winds depleted the atmosphere away overtime, turning it into the red planet we know now. Here on Earth, our active molten iron core generates a magnetic field that protects our atmosphere from these harsh solar winds and protects us from harmful radiation. In order for incoming manned Mars missions (including base establishment and future terraforming efforts) to be a success, this atmosphere must be first restored.

According to Dr. Jim Green, the Director NASA’s Planetary Science Division, by positioning a magnetic dipole shield at the Mars L1 Lagrange point, an artificial magnetosphere can be formed which would be enough to shield the entire planet from solar winds and radiation. This might sound like fanciful science fiction, but a similar idea is already implemented by NASA using miniature magnetospheres to shield the crew inside a spacecraft.

The idea has been tested further by several research teams which include scientists from Ames Research Center, the Goddard Space Flight Center, the University of Colorado, Princeton University, and the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. They have ran a series of simulations to calculate whether the proposed artificial magnetosphere is feasible and if the atmosphere can recover.

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The results of their studies show that the dipole field positioned at Mars L1 Lagrange Point would not only be able to counteract solar winds, but Mars atmosphere would also achieve a new balance and naturally thicken over time due to the volcanic outpassing from the interior and crust that is currently balancing the atmosphere to some degree. Estimates show that as much as 4 degrees celsius increase in average temperature will lead to melting of the carbon dioxide ice in the northern polar ice cap and restore 1/7th of Martian oceans.

This would eventually allow for proper human exporation on the red planet, estimated currently at around the year 2040 and beyond, according to Dr. Green. The restored atmosphere would also allow for larger landed mass of equipment on the surface, greater ability for oxygen extraction and even “open air” greenhouses.


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