It might be the most ambitious idea NASA has ever hatched.
This week at the agency’s Washington HQ, Jim Green, director of planetary science, told a workshop he is considering the possibility of rebuilding Mars’s atmosphere by creating an artificial magnetic field in space.
If that idea sounds bonkers in theory, the practicalities are even more baffling.
Popular Mechanics reported that Green’s magnetic shield would be generated by an electric circuit sitting in a stable orbit between Mars and the Sun.
Around 3.5 billion years ago, Mars likely boasted an atmosphere, moderate temperatures and surface water. Over the planet’s lifetime, however, the atmosphere has been largely destroyed by solar particles.
But Green is confident that the shield could help Mars develop an atmospheric pressure comparable to Earth’s within just a few years.
Shielded from solar winds, CO2 frozen at Mars’s ice caps would turn to gas, triggering a greenhouse effect that would heat the planet’s equator.
Ultimately, it could lead to ice stores under the poles to melt, releasing liquid water on to Mars’s surface once again.
Perhaps one-seventh of the ancient ocean could return to Mars,” Popular Mechanics reported Green as saying.
The idea is still very much just a concept at the moment, but it’s one we’ll be keeping a close eye on.
It’s not the only bonkers (but brilliant) idea conceived by scientists this year. Last month, researchers from Arizona State University revealed a £400bn plan to save our polar regions: refreezing the Arctic.
Steven Desch told The Observer: “Thicker ice would mean longer-lasting ice. In turn, that would mean the danger of all sea ice disappearing from the Arctic in summer would be reduced significantly.”