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Giant magnetic shield can make Mars habitable for Humans, say NASA Scientists

Red Planet once had a thick atmosphere necessary to maintain liquid water

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US, Mar 6, 2017: Scientists at NASA have proposed that launching a giant magnetic shield into space to protect Mars from solar winds could give the Red Planet its atmosphere back and make it habitable for humans.

Mars now appears to be a cold desert world and it has no global magnetic field. The cold temperatures and thin atmosphere on the red Planet do not allow liquid water to exist at the surface for long. But it might not have been always so.

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Scientists believe that the Red Planet once had a thick atmosphere necessary to maintain liquid water, and a warmer, potentially habitable climate. It is the collapse of the protective magnetic field billions of years ago that eventually made Mars what it is today — cold and arid.

In a presentation at the Planetary Science Vision 2050 Workshop in Washington, DC last week, NASA scientists proposed that launching a giant magnetic shield into space between Mars and the Sun could help the Red Planet restore its atmosphere and make it suitable for humans to colonise in the future.

The US space agency thinks a powerful-enough magnetic shield launched into space could serve as a replacement for Mars’s own lost magnetosphere, ScienceAlert reported on Monday.

Launching an “artificial magnetosphere” into space between Mars and the Sun could hypothetically shield the Red Planet in the extended magnetotail that trails behind the protective field, NASA’s Planetary Science Division director Jim Green was quoted as saying.

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“This situation then eliminates many of the solar wind erosion processes that occur with the planet’s ionosphere and upper atmosphere allowing the Martian atmosphere to grow in pressure and temperature over time,” the researchers explained in an accompanying paper.

The researchers believe that the magnetic shield could help Mars regain some of its lost Earth-like habitability within the space of a couple of generations. (IANS)

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NASA is Confident Regarding Mars Opportunity Rover

However, even after the first time engineers hear from Opportunity, it would take time to fully recover, NASA said

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Optimistic about Mars Opportunity rover, says NASA. Pixabay

There’s reason to be optimistic about Mars Opportunity rover that has been silent since June 10, after getting caught in a massive dust storm on the Red Planet that cut off solar power for the nearly 15-year-old rover, NASA said in a statement.

According to the scientists, the global dust storm is “decaying” — meaning more dust is falling out of the atmosphere than is being raised back into it. As a result, skies might soon clear enough for the solar-powered rover to recharge and attempt to “phone home.”

Studies on the state of batteries and temperatures at the location showed that they were relatively in good health before the storm, and there is not likely to be too much degradation.

Moreover, because dust storms tend to warm the environment — and the storm happened in summer — the rover should have stayed warm enough to survive, the US space agency noted.

Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California are now looking for signs for recovery efforts.

According to them, Opportunity will need a tau — the veil of dust blowing around — of less than 2.0 before the solar-powered rover will be able to recharge its batteries.

NASA
Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California are now looking for signs for recovery efforts. Flickr

The higher the tau, the less sunlight is available; the last tau measured by Opportunity was 10.8 on June 10. To compare, an average tau for its location on Mars is usually 0.5.

Several times a week, the engineers are using NASA’s Deep Space Network, which communicates between planetary probes and Earth, to attempt to talk with Opportunity.

The massive DSN antennas ping the rover during scheduled “wake-up” times, and then search for signals sent from Opportunity in response.

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In addition, JPL’s radio science group uses special equipment on DSN antennas that can detect a wider range of frequencies. Each day, they record any radio signal from Mars over most of the rover’s daylight hours, then search the recordings for Opportunity’s “voice.”

However, even after the first time engineers hear from Opportunity, it would take time to fully recover, NASA said. (IANS)