If living on Mars is of the realm of sci-fi fantasy, one Nasa scientist has an idea, which could make it possible in a matter of years.
Speaking at the Planetary Science Vision 2050 Workshop at the Nasa headquarters in Washington, one scientist presented the extraordinary idea to put a magnetic shield around Mars to restore its atmosphere, which eventually could make it habitable.
In a talk, Nasa’s Planetary Science Division Director James Green set out how the organisation could be in a position to carry out daily science and exploration on Mars.
The workshop was aimed to discuss ambitious space projects that could be implemented or at least started by 2050. Speakers included a range of experts on space technology, which set out their vision for what planetary science may look like in the future.
Mr Green said that launching a “magnetic shield” to a stable orbit between Mars and the sun could shield the planet from high energy solar particles.
In the past Mars had a significant amount of water before the planet lost between 80 and 90 per cent of its atmosphere over its lifetime.
The shield would consist of a large dipole, which is a close electric circuit powerful enough to generate an artificial magnetic field, Popular Mechanics reports.
The shield would allow Mars to slowly restore its atmosphere.
In pictures: Visions of the Universe
In pictures: Visions of the Universe
The Crab Nebula (M1)
Hubble Space Telescope, 2005
Wide Field Planetary Camera 2
Stars like our Sun die slowly, gently expelling their outer layers over millions of years. But for stars more than ten times as massive as the Sun the end is extremely violent. When its nuclear fuel runs out, the core of the star collapses, triggering a huge explosion which rips the outer layers of the star apart, blasting them outwards. The Crab Nebula is the debris from one of these ‘supernova’ explosions.
© NASA/ESA/J. Hester and A. Loll (Arizona State University)
The Butterfly Nebula (NGC 6302)
Hubble Space Telescope, 2009
Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3)
The death of a star very much like the Sun allows us to glimpse our own distant future. As the star’s internal nuclear furnace begins to fail its outer layers are expelled back into space, forming a beautiful ‘Planetary Nebula’. Hubble’s camera is equipped with special colour filters to isolate the light from various chemicals. This image has been coloured to highlight nitrogen in red and sulphur in white.
© NASA/ESA and the Hubble SM4 ERO Team
Astronauts repairing the Hubble Space Telescope
Endeavour space shuttle, 1993
The Hubble Space Telescope was sent into space in 1990. Orbiting outside the distorting effects of the Earth’s atmosphere, it has taken the most breath-taking images of our universe. This photograph shows astronauts F. Story Musgrave (on the robotic arm) and Jeffrey Hoffman (inside the shuttle) during the first servicing mission, which repaired a flaw in the telescope's primary mirror.
Bright-layered rock deposits with evidence of ancient water
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft, 2007
High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera
From orbit, just a few hundred kilometres above the surface, spacecraft like NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter reveal the diverse landscapes of Mars. These include evidence of water in the distant Martian past.
© Malin Space Science Systems/MGS/JPL/NASA
Apollo 11 spacecraft, 1969
70-mm Hasselblad camera with a 60-mm lens This is one of the most iconic views of planet Earth, taken from the Apollo 11 spacecraft as it orbited the Moon in 1969. Describing the scene, astronaut Neil Armstrong said 'It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small'.
© NASA/Johnson Space Center
Edwin 'Buzz' Aldrin on the Moon
Apollo 11 spacecraft, 1969
70-mm Hasselblad camera with a 60-mm lens On 20 July 1969 Buzz Aldrin became the second man to set foot on the Moon. Following in the footsteps of mission commander Neil Armstrong, Aldrin is seen here next to the American flag, close to the landing site. Putting people on the Moon remains one of the most significant achievements in space exploration. It allowed photographs to be taken from the lunar surface for the first time.
© NASA/photograph by Neil Armstrong
Cassini orbiter spacecraft, 2005
Imaging Science Subsystem – Narrow Angle (enhanced colour image)
This sponge-like object is one of the most bizarre of Saturn’s family of over sixty moons. Over 360 km from end to end, Hyperion is made largely of ice and has the consistency of a loose pile of rubble. Its surface is covered with irregular sharp-edged craters dusted with a mysterious dark material which may have originated on Phoebe, another of Saturn's moons.
© NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Lost in Yosemite
Canon 5D Mark II DSLR camera with Canon EF
16–35-mm f/2.8 lens; ISO 400; 30-second exposure
Here, two lost hikers stand in a bubble of torchlight beneath the immense dome of the night sky. Taken at nightfall in Yosemite National Park, California, USA, the picture captures the last remnants of daylight and the bright dust clouds of the Milky Way. The image strongly conveys the wonder, beauty and awe of astronomy, and our own fragility. Steven Christenson was Runner-up in the ‘People and Space’ category, Astronomy Photographer of the Year, 2012
© Steven Christenson, 2011
Orion Deep Wide Field
Takahashi FSQ 106 EDX 106mm refractor telescope, 0.7x focal reducer with a Takahashi EM-400 equatorial mount and a SBIG STL11000 CCD camera
The three bright stars on the left in this image are the stars of Orion’s Belt. Although part of a familiar constellation, a view such as this can never be seen with the naked eye. Only with long exposure time and a sensitive camera can we see the dramatic landscape of glowing gas and dust clouds that lie between the visible stars. This vast region of space includes the famous Orion and Horsehead Nebulae. Rogelio Bernal Andreo was the Winner of the 'Deep Space' category, Astronomy Photographer of the Year, 2010
© Rogelio Bernal Andreo, 2009
Cassini orbiter spacecraft, 2005
Radio Science Subsystem (enhanced image) This startling view of Saturn’s ring system shows how image-processing techniques can be used to convey scientific information which could not otherwise be seen. Saturn’s clouds are shown in their natural colours but false-colour enhancement has been used to show the density of the icy particles which make up the rings.
Sky away from the Lights
Hutech modified Canon 5D camera with a 35-mm f/2 lens at f/2.8; ISO 3200; 30-second exposure
Like an alien landscape, pools of hazy light stretch into the distance of this photograph taken near Bursa in Turkey. These lights, diffused by the dust and humidity of a heat wave, are from villages below. Artificial light can make viewing and photographing the night sky difficult, but here the beauty of the Milky Way can clearly be seen.
Tunç Tezel was Highly Commended in the ‘Earth and Space’ category, Astronomy Photographer of the Year, 2012
© Tunç Tezel, 2010
Jessica Caterson was Shortlisted for Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year, 2012
© Jessica Caterson, 2011
Star Trails, Blue Mountains
As the Earth rotates during the 30-minute exposure of this photograph the stars make trails around the sky’s south pole. Taken in Australia, the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, two neighbouring galaxies, appear as faint blurs in the sky. An equivalent photograph taken from Britain would show Polaris (the Pole Star) at the centre of the star trails.
Ted Dobosz was the Winner of the ‘Earth and Space’ category, Astronomy Photographer of the Year, 2009
© Ted Dobosz, 2009 Canon 40D DSLR camera with Tamron 17-mm lens at f/3.5
The Galilean moons: Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto
Galileo orbiter spacecraft, 1996–97
Solid-State Imaging (CCD) System
Jupiter has over sixty known moons. The four largest, shown here to scale, were first observed by Galileo in 1610. From left to right: Io, the moon closest to Jupiter, is the most volcanically active object in the Solar System; Europa has a smooth icy surface scarred by numerous cracks; Ganymede and Callisto are giants among moons, their surfaces dotted by many impact craters.
The sharpest view of the Orion Nebula
Hubble Space Telescope, 2004–05
Hubble Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) and European Space Agency’s La Silla 2.2-metre telescope This recent picture is a dramatic view of the nearest star-forming region to the Earth. It is made from 520 images taken in five colours. The Orion Nebula is shown in unprecedented detail with more than 3000 stars at various stages of formation. Containing a billion pixels at full resolution, NASA’s image shows how far astronomical imaging has come in 130 years.
© NASA/ESA/M. Robberto (Space Telescope Science Institute/ESA) and the Hubble Space Telescope Orion Treasury Project Team
The Sombrero Galaxy (M104)
Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
Hubble Space Telescope, 2003
Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS)
Like other spiral galaxies, the Sombrero consists of a flat disc of stars surrounding a fatter central ‘bulge’. However, here this central core of stars extends out to encompass the whole of the disc in a halo of stars. Like most galaxies, the heart of the Sombrero conceals a dark secret: a super-massive black hole containing as much matter as a billion Suns.
© NASA and the Hubble
Magellan spacecraft, 1991
Takahashi FSQ 106 f/3.6 telescope with a QHY 9 mount
Continuing improvements in telescope and photographic technology allow 21st-century amateur astronomers to image galaxies in detail that would have astounded Edwin Hubble. Here the flat disc of Andromeda fills the frame with its swirling spiral arms, composed of billions of stars, knots of pink hydrogen gas and dark lanes of dust. Looking back from Andromeda, our own Milky Way galaxy would look similar to this. Aggelos Kechagias was Shortlisted for Astronomy Photographer of the Year, 2012
© Aggelos Kechagias, 2010
Mr Green’s modelling of the shield found that the structure could enable Mars to build up half the atmospheric pressure of the earth in a matter of years.
The shield would protect the planet from solar winds and the greenhouse effect would start to heat the planet and eventually melt the ice under its poles.
"Perhaps one-seventh of the ancient ocean could return to Mars.
"The solar system is ours, let's take it. That of course includes Mars and for humans to be able to explore Mars, together, with us doing science, we need a better environment," he said.
If the theory seems possible, this could be one step closer towards transforming Mars into a habitable planet in the next 100 years.