NASA scientists have proposed a bold plan that could give Mars its atmosphere back and make the Red Planet habitable for future generations of human colonists.

By launching a giant magnetic shield into space to protect Mars from solar winds, the space agency says we could restore the Red Planet’s atmosphere, and terraform the Martian environment so that liquid water flows on the surface once again.

Mars may seem like a cold, arid wasteland these days, but the Red Planet is thought to have once had a thick atmosphere that could have maintained deep oceans filled with liquid water, and a warmer, potentially habitable climate.

Scientists think Mars lost all of this when its protective magnetic field collapsed billions of years ago, and solar wind – high-energy particles projected from the Sun – has been stripping the Red Planet’s atmosphere away ever since.

Now, new simulations by NASA suggest there could be a way to naturally give Mars its thick atmosphere back – and it doesn’t require nuking the Red Planet into submission, as Elon Musk once proposed.

Instead, the space agency thinks a powerful-enough magnetic shield launched into space could serve as a replacement for Mars’s own lost magnetosphere, giving the planet a chance to naturally restore its own atmosphere.

In new findings presented at the Planetary Science Vision 2050 Workshop last week, NASA’s Planetary Science Division director, Jim Green, said 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.

“This situation then eliminates 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,” the researchers explain in an accompanying paper.

While the team acknowledges that the concept might sound “fanciful”, they point to existing miniature magnetosphere research being conducted to protect astronauts and spacecraft from cosmic radiation, and think that the same technology on a larger scale could be used to shield Mars.

“It may be feasible that we can get up to these higher field strengths that are necessary to provide that shielding,” Green said in his presentation.

“We need to be able then to also modify that direction of the magnetic field so that it always pushes the solar wind away.”

In the team’s simulations, if the solar wind were counteracted by the magnetic shield, Mars’s atmospheric losses would stop, and the atmosphere would regain as much as half the atmospheric pressure of Earth in a matter of years.

As the atmosphere becomes thicker, the team estimates Mars’s climate would become around 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer, which would be enough to melt carbon dioxide ice over the Red Planet’s northern polar cap.

If this happened, the carbon in the atmosphere would help to trap heat like it does on Earth, triggering a greenhouse effect that could melt Mars’s water ice, giving the Red Planet back its liquid water in the form of flowing rivers and oceans.

If all of this were to occur as the team anticipates – and admittedly, that’s a pretty fantastical if – it’s possible that, within the space of a couple of generations, Mars could regain some of its lost Earth-like habitability.

“This is not terraforming as you may think of it where we actually artificially change the climate, but we let nature do it, and we do that based on the physics we know today,” Green said.

The team acknowledges that the plan is largely hypothetical at this point, but it’s a pretty amazing vision for what might be possible in the years ahead. The researchers intend to keep studying the possibilities to get a more accurate estimate of how long the climate-altering effects would take.

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

“Much like Earth, an enhanced atmosphere would: allow larger landed mass of equipment to the surface, shield against most cosmic and solar particle radiation, extend the ability for oxygen extraction, and provide ‘open air’ green-houses to exist for plant production, just to name a few,” the researchers explain.

“If this can be achieved in a lifetime, the colonisation of Mars would not be far away.”

The findings were presented at the Planetary Science Vision 2050 Workshop.

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89 Comments

F Michael Schmeißer · August 7, 2017 at 10:06 pm

Now I know where the Elite will bunker down.

Kurt Betz · August 6, 2017 at 3:27 pm

Didn’t Quade give Mars back is atmosphere already?

Rick Burrows · August 6, 2017 at 2:37 pm

We would just fu k mars all up to

Louis Møller · August 5, 2017 at 8:24 pm

What about earth?

Patrick Groves · August 5, 2017 at 5:30 am

Maybe it’s inhabitable for a reason!

Edgar Magana · August 5, 2017 at 3:06 am

It would work

Ricky Skinner · August 5, 2017 at 3:05 am

Stay off of Mars. You will die there.

Jim Weaver · August 5, 2017 at 3:02 am

Ray Bradbury wrote a short about racists relocating Black people to Mars. Blscks made a happy peaceful world. Whites blew up thecearth and black Mars was forced into a discussion of whether to let earths survivors to come to Mars. Lind hearts prvailed and survivors wrre allowed in. Not to s possitive effect, I recall.

Dom Ramirez · August 5, 2017 at 2:15 am

Oh yea just fuck the World we live in huh? Dumb ass scientists

George Carillo · August 5, 2017 at 1:50 am

Its a joke, they can’t even send humans “again” to the moon, how ambitious to do a project on Mars…

Naomi Verret · August 5, 2017 at 1:10 am

So we can fuck up that planet too?

Mikhael Alessandro Smyth · August 4, 2017 at 11:40 pm

Mars is already done… I have friends stationed there…

Connor Mcnair · August 4, 2017 at 11:21 pm

DO IT

Tom Walker · August 4, 2017 at 10:08 pm

this people is so they can total f*** another planet as they have done to our own

Stuart Gizzi · August 4, 2017 at 9:55 pm

it only takes 300 days to get to mars

Stuart Gizzi · August 4, 2017 at 9:47 pm

and how long does it take to get to mars .a only get 5.5 holidays a year that will never be enuff.

Peggy Lockwood · August 4, 2017 at 8:25 pm

Sounds like BS to me…. I mean really… If we cannot do right by the planet we already have then we deserve to become extinct…

Ryan Blount · August 4, 2017 at 7:55 pm

I rather take over pluto

Rob Blanchard · August 4, 2017 at 7:45 pm

We will never leave Earth. Need to fix us before trying to make an inhabitable place habitable.

Delissa Caceres · August 4, 2017 at 7:16 pm

& they will

David Viljoen · August 4, 2017 at 5:37 pm

About time

Gustavo Ferrero · August 4, 2017 at 5:16 pm

I’m very interested in making Mars inhabitable, if we have the resources to do such an achievement, couldn’t we do something alike with the Sahara Desert and other deserts of the world ?

    Paul Tuara · August 4, 2017 at 8:29 pm

    The knowledge of how to restore the deserts of our planet is already known. Ref: loess plateau china.

    Gustavo Ferrero · August 4, 2017 at 8:37 pm

    Thanks, I’ll check it up

Ady Kilmister · August 4, 2017 at 5:14 pm

Cool,

Bobby Jennings · August 4, 2017 at 4:45 pm

All built by the lowest bidder.

Sean Christopher Daigle · August 4, 2017 at 4:41 pm

And how do u intend on doing that…

Angel Washington · August 4, 2017 at 4:34 pm

To jumpstart core

Angel Washington · August 4, 2017 at 4:33 pm

Mars needs water to restart its own magnetic field…then no need for equipment..other then…..HAARP system

Marianna Elisabeth Hope · August 4, 2017 at 3:24 pm

When has this sort of thing EVER worked?

Scott Bradley · August 4, 2017 at 3:18 pm

Terraforming

Bismark Odida · August 4, 2017 at 2:37 pm

It would be cheaper to cr3eate a shroud around Venus which already has a strong gravity like ours.

Mark Jolly · August 4, 2017 at 1:54 pm

Nice thought but unsustainable. No molten rotating core. Seems I remember something about buying “a pig in a poke”

Jackie Levrets · August 4, 2017 at 1:12 pm

It’s amazing that people actually believe this

John Ferline · August 4, 2017 at 12:44 pm

Mars dont even have volcano eruptions it may dead inside
The core inside may not spin at all
Like the moon

Penny Senior · August 4, 2017 at 12:36 pm

Like they did around the earth?

Thomas Milani · August 4, 2017 at 12:33 pm

trying to colonize mars

…yet WON’T even bother cure fucking cancer.

THIS is the exact shit that keeps the ET’s away from us.

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