NASA Considers Magnetic Shield to Help Mars Grow Its Atmosphere

NASA Planetary Science Division Director, Jim Green, says launching a magnetic shield could help warm Mars and possibly allow it to become habitable.

The Planetary Science Vision 2050 Workshop is happening right now at NASA headquarters in Washington DC. The workshop is meant to discuss ambitious space projects that could be realized, or at least started, by 2050.

One of the most enticing ideas came this morning from Jim Green, NASA’s Planetary Science Division Director. In a talk titled, “A Future Mars Environment for Science and Exploration,” Green discussed launching a “magnetic shield” to a stable orbit between Mars and the sun, called Mars L1, to shield the planet from high-energy solar particles. The shield structure would consist of a large dipole, or a pair of equal and oppositely charged magnets to generate an artificial magnetic field.

Such a shield could leave Mars in the relatively protected magnetotail of the magnetic field created by the object, allowing the Red Planet to slowly restore its atmosphere. About 90 percent of Mars’s atmosphere was stripped away by solar particles in the lifetime of the planet, which was likely temperate and had surface water about 3.5 billion years ago.

You can watch the talk here (it starts at 1:36:00).