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Can we terraform Mars? A scientist from NASA thinks so

Life on Mars may not be as far-fetched as you think.
Credit: WPMT FOX43
Life on Mars is more plausible than you think

PENNSYLVANIA, USA — Humans may now have the ability to terraform both Mars and possibly Venus according to James Green, NASA's Chief Scientist who is set to retire this year.

Terraforming, which is the ability to transform a planet to resemble Earth so that it can support life, is not a new idea. Founder of SpaceX and entrepreneur Elon Musk has been outlining a plan to do this over the past few years. The actual way the plan would be completed, though, has always been in question.

Mars has always been an extremely appealing target for terraforming, and for good reason.

Named after the Roman god of war, Mars has proven to have similar seasons and comparable day-night patterns. Additionally, this planet possesses a ton of water, even if it is in the form of ice. 

There is problem with Mars though, and it's a big one: it has no magnetosphere. 

NASA defines the magnetosphere as the region around a planet dominated by the planet's magnetic field. It shields our home planet from solar and cosmic particle radiation, as well as erosion of the atmosphere by the solar wind, according to the agency.

Without this magnetic shield, strong solar winds will blow away any atmosphere that is trying to accumulate. Additionally, a lack of a protective magnetic shield exposes the entire planet and life on it to dangerous radiation from the sun.

James Green proposed that humans could live on Mars one day if they were to, "create a giant magnetic field on the planet." 

But what would that do to encourage life on Mars, and how do we get to that point? It's actually not as complex as one would think.

Mars needs to have an atmosphere. The red planet used to have an atmosphere that was very similar to Earth's atmosphere, but due to a lack of magnetic field, much of the atmosphere was destroyed by the strong solar wind.

By creating a magnetic field we can set a placeholder for our new atmosphere, one that will keep it in place and prevent solar winds from stripping it.

In turn, it will also raise the temperature by trapping the heat from the sun within the atmosphere. As temperature increases, pressure will also increase.

Higher temperatures and pressure will give researchers the ability to begin the process of growing plants in soil. 

Elon Musk's idea of nuking the polar ice caps in order to release stored CO2 and water vapor in order to create an atmosphere would, in this case, theoretically work, if the artificial magnetosphere were to hold.

There is a proposal to create a gigantic magnetic shield in orbit between Mars and the sun, but no projects are in the works as of this writing. 

James Green also says that Venus could most likely be terraformed as well, but instead of a magnetic shield its a physical shield that reflects light. This would cool temperatures enough to support life as we know it. 

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