Why is Mars’s atmosphere unfit for life?
Scientists believe that once Mars had an oxygen-rich atmosphere and even oceans. The fact gives rise to allegations that Mars was once inhabited by living organisms. However, drastic atmospheric changes that occurred billions of years ago made the Red Planet unsuitable for life. As of now, there is no liquid water on the surface of Mars since the average temperature ranges from 200 K to 220 K (around -82 °F).
If compared to the atmosphere of Earth, the Martian atmosphere is extremely thin – less than 1 percent of Earth’s atmosphere. Therefore, it can’t protect the Red Planet against the radiation that comes from the Sun. Moreover, Mars possesses a weak gravitational force which results in atmospheric losses. In other words, Mars can’t keep its atmosphere, so it’s constantly escaping to outer space.
What’s the plan?
NASA scientists have come up with a bold but feasible plan – they want to launch a big-enough magnetic shield that would serve as the once lost magnetosphere of Mars. The shield would protect the Red Planet against solar wind erosion processes that are harmful to the atmosphere of Mars. Hence, scientists expect Martian atmospheric pressure and temperature to start growing over some period of time.
In a nutshell, the concept is as follows:
- Scientists launch a magnetic shield that reduces the damaging influence of solar winds;
- Atmospheric temperature increases by 74 °F reaching the 7.2 °F mark;
- Carbon dioxide ice that covers the northern polar cap of Mars melts; this results in the accumulation of carbon in the atmosphere;
- The accumulated carbon triggers a greenhouse effect;
- Water ice melts producing oceans of liquid water.
This plan is designed to create Earth-like conditions that would be suitable for human life. Presumably, the whole process would take from 50 to 80 years.
As of now, there are still a few issues scientists should consider before the plan will be implemented. If everything goes well, Mars colonization will become only a matter of time!