Growing oceans in the shadow of the magnetic balloon
Matt Williams on the Universal Science website has reported that a NASA study of terraforming Mars presented at the Planetary Science Vision 2050 Workshop suggests that a major factor in restoring an atmosphere and, eventually, oceans, could be an inflatable, magnetic-field generating structure placed at the Lagrange L1 point, gravitationally balanced on the line between Mars and the Sun.
By deflecting the Solar wind and Solar radiation, the magnetic dipole shield would stop the stripping away of the Martian atmosphere, which is replenished by volcanic outgassing. In consequence, the atmosphere would thicken and trigger a warming of the planet, possibly as much as 4 degrees C. (~7 degrees F.). That round of warming could be enough to melt the frozen carbon dioxide at the northern Martian pole, further warming Mars and leading to melting of the polar water ice. As much as 1/7th of Mars’s original oceans may thus return.
A shielded, warmed Mars with a thickened atmosphere and free-standing water would be much easier for humans to explore and, eventually, to take up residence. And the entire process may be accomplished in a matter of decades, putting in range of the lifetimes of many of us.
The full presentation, given by Jim Green, Director of the workshop sponsor, NASA’s Planetary Science Division, is available on-line: A Future Mars Environment for Science and Exploration.