Credit: NASA

Can Mars’ Lost Atmosphere be fixed?

It has been illustrated exactly exactly how Mars lost it’s atmosphere due to the lack of magnetic field, of the kind that protects us here on Earth. This is a slightly gloomy discovery, not nearly so exciting and optimistic as the water announcement – but is there a way to mitigate this issue on a planetary scale? There may be an answer…

NASA did this with another one of their “We’ve got something really important to tell you on Thursday” events recently, and this time it wasn’t flowing water on Mars, but the fact that the MAVEN mission has been able to show how the solar wind has stripped Mars of its atmosphere over time.

This wasn’t a shock like flowing water, but it’s nonetheless a great piece of the puzzle, and as ever from NASA, accompanied by this nice clip below

This had always been a question for Mars colonisation enthusiasts – what is the virtue of terra-forming the planet if any ‘new’ atmosphere would simply be stripped away too. Mars is not just smaller at 53% the diameter, but also far less dense than Earth, only 10% of Earth’s mass. In addition, the outer core of Mars is believed to not be liquid as it is with Earth, and this loss of the dynamo creating the magnetic field is the reason why Mars lost it’s atmosphere, it’s oceans, and why it’s a bad candidate for terra-forming. How could this possibly be changed? There are plenty of sci-fi answers, like capturing and slamming asteroids into Mars, and trying to get the radioactive metals to the core, but is there actually something much-more real that can be done?

Research on the 1200 megajule generator at Los Alamos National Lab

Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory’s biggest magnet facility have met the grand challenge of producing magnetic fields in excess of 100 tesla while conducting six different experiments. The hundred-tesla level is roughly equivalent to 2 million times Earth’s magnetic field.

So, is it perhaps conceivable that this technology might once day be constructed on Mars to protect humans from the ravages of the solar radiation, and allow thickening of the atmosphere?…it’s a tantalising thought, with a million fresh challenges, but it’d make a great movie!
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