Mars may once have been a much friendlier planet to the origins of life. The problem is that over time its core cooled down, and thus its protective magnetic field disappeared. Perhaps, then, it will be enough to restore them?
On Earth, the magnetic field protects us from intense radiation, both cosmic and that emitted by our sun. Thanks to this, we can enjoy a dense atmosphere and small amounts of harmful radiation on the surface of our planet. There is no such comfort on Mars anymore.
The steady stream of solar radiation hitting Mars’s unshielded atmosphere was constantly tearing off its upper layers. The dense atmosphere that allows liquid water to exist on the planet’s surface has long been history. While on Earth we have a surface pressure of 1000 hPa, on Mars we have only 7 hPa. There is little atmosphere left there, and liquid water on the surface is no longer visible.
For many years, more or less crazy ideas of the so-called terraformation of Mars. Proponents of such theories argue that it is enough to properly modify the conditions on the surface of Mars for the planet to become Eden again, a place friendly to life. In order to do this – the madmen argue – it is enough to restore the magnetic field, then thicken the atmosphere properly, raise the temperature on the surface, and voila! – you can build Martian bases and cities that not only Elon Musk dreams of today, but also Saudi Arabia, which plans to create a city on Mars in the next hundred years.
The optimism of terraformers is something that deserves separate research. Considering how ineptly we are slowing down the temperature increase to the level of 1.5 degrees Celsius over the course of a century on Earth, where the atmosphere is already perfect, it is certainly possible to raise the temperature on Mars by several dozen degrees and to densify the atmosphere by a hundred times is within our reach. . The more sensible scientists remind that the proposed scale of change requires thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years. Considering that man has existed on the surface of the Earth for 2.5 million years before we change Mars, representatives of the species that will evolve from modern Homo sapiens will fly to him.
The magnetic field is necessary for Mars to eventually develop a stable atmosphere that will not be stripped of solar radiation and will not escape into space. At the same time, the magnetic field would protect people from harmful cosmic rays, you know.
In the latest article to be published in the January issue of Acta Astronautica, an international team of scientists is considering various options for restoring the magnetic field of the Red Planet.
Of course, it would be best to liquefy the iron core of the planet, the rotation of which would create a magnetic field. However, it would also be possible to create an exoskeleton of a planet made of magnets that would form a controlled stream or a vast torus of plasma around the entire planet. In it, charged particles would circle the planet. While this would certainly be an extremely advanced (and currently unrealistic) engineering project, it would still be easier than manipulating the core of a planet. Such an exoskeleton could be located either on the surface of the planet or even above it in orbit around Mars.
Okay, how do you go about it? Well, don’t get going at all. The calculations made by the authors of the article indicate that the minimum version would require about 10^17 J, which is more or less the amount of energy that was consumed in 2020 by … all people on Earth. Once again it turns out that in order to do anything meaningful on Mars, you need to deliver nuclear reactors there, which are the only ones capable of supplying the uninhabited planet with the right amount of energy.
However, it just so happens that NASA has announced a call for proposals to build nuclear reactors that would first supply the lunar base, but eventually also hit the surface of the Red Planet. If we let technology develop in the coming decades, perhaps the creation of the magnetic exoskeleton of Mars will be somewhat less unrealistic than it is now, and dreams of creating a human division on another planet will become a reality.