"Today, Mars is an arid and cold world with a very thin atmosphere that has significant frozen and underground water resources".
Simulation models suggested that a shield could help Mars restore half the atmospheric pressure in a few years. But it might not have been always so. This will further increase the temperature of the planet, introducing global warming on Mars, and begin the process of melting the water trapped in an ice cap at the Martian north pole. Since the current scientific consensus is that Mars' atmosphere was lost because of solar winds and the disappearance of the planet's magnetic field, this solution shows promise.
A group of NASA scientists created a stir recently at the space agency's Planetary Vision 2050 Workshop last week by suggesting a plan to create an artificial magnetic field around Mars to make it more friendly to life - most particularly, human life.
The shield would consist of a giant dipole powerful-enough to generate an artificial magnetic field.
This idea was germinated by Jim Green, NASA's Planetary Science Division Director. This artificial magnetosphere would shield Mars from the damaging effects of solar winds and other high-energy particles, much like Earth's own magnetosphere does. During the course of his presentation, a slowly rotating graphic of Mars turned from the Red planet to a terraformed blue-green one, similar to how the Earth appears when seen from space. They stress the potential benefits for science and space exploration in building a magnetic shield for Mars, such as shielding against harmful radiation and the capacity for food production.
Mars seems to be humanity's best bet for a colony outside Earth, though the Red Planet is notoriously inhospitable due to a lack of atmosphere and a barren landscape. With the human colonisation idea getting a push, NASA is devising ways to make the planet a habitable one for the human species to thrive there. And this could eventually restore about one seventh of Mars' ancient oceans.
"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. 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.
Even if we were to dump more atmosphere into Mars, it would just be stripped away again.
Admitting that the idea sounds "fanciful", Green pointed to emerging research revealing that a miniature magnetosphere can be used to protect humans and spacecraft from cosmic radiation, with his team believing there is no reason why the it should not work on a larger scale with Mars.