Scientists Speculate How to Create an Earthlike Atmosphere on Mars, STAT

Around 3.5 billion years ago, Mars was not so different from our own planet. It had an altered atmosphere, which protected it from solar winds, creating a planet that had rivers, oceans, and likely even supported life as we know it. In a quest to extend human domain over space, a NASA scientist suggests speeding up the “warming of Mars” by a few million years, so that what is now a dusty, barren place would have a livable surface once again. However, instead of waiting for Mars to be warmed with solar flares in another 7.5 million years, scientists want to alter the atmosphere of Mars within a human lifespan.  

Mars also once had magnetic fields which helped to support its livability factor, making it warmer and wetter, but somehow a functioning magnetosphere which protected Mars from solar winds, and allowed it to have surface water was eradicated. Some say Mars was involved in an extraterrestrial Atomic War, with evidence of nuclear blasts on the planet offered as testament. A war of this type certainly could have altered the atmosphere on Mars, however, James Green, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division, thinks us folks here on earth could alter Mars’ atmosphere once again, only to support human civilization.

In a talk at the NASA Planetary Science Vision 2050 Workshop at NASA’s headquarters, Green presented simulations, models, and early thinking about how a Martian magnetic field might be re-constituted to make the planet more hospitable.

His idea is to create a “magnetic shield” to protect the planet from high-energy solar particles. The shield structure would consist of a large dipole—a closed electric circuit powerful enough to generate an artificial magnetic field.

His simulations showed that a shield of this sort would leave Mars in the relatively protected magnetotail of the magnetic field created by the object, resulting in a possible large-scale stripping of the Martian atmosphere by the solar wind, and a significant change in climate.

Green states in the workshop,

“The solar system is ours, let’s take it. And that, of course, includes Mars. But for humans to be able to explore Mars, together with us doing science, we need a better environment.”

When responding to the controversial accusation that this is a form of terraforming, Green stated,

 “My understanding of terraforming is the deliberate addition, by humans, of directly adding gases to the atmosphere on a planetary scale. I may be splitting hairs here, but nothing is introduced to the atmosphere in my simulations that Mars doesn’t create itself. In effect, this concept simply accelerates a natural process that would most likely occur over a much longer period of time.”

Experts do believe that Mars will be much warmer in the future, and therefore more hospitable to human and other forms of life, however, this process is expected to take millions of years, not in the blink of an eye, and at the whim of a few NASA scientists.

There does seem to be a push to develop a habitable place in space for the human race with ever increasing fervor, though.

Creating habitable places to live, sustainable ways to farm, and methods to recycle water are all additional concerns of creating civilization on Mars. Essentially, the same problems we face on earth would accompany us to a new planet – only the surface atmosphere on the Red Planet is much less welcoming as it stands. As we address this set of challenges hopefully we will not repeat the same mistakes we’ve made on our home planet – of thinking we can override the laws of Cosmic Intelligence and Mother Nature.

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