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Kevin Jacobson

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Magnetizing Mars. Is This How We Could Do it?

As many of you know, mars has no magnetic field and thus has a very thin and toxic atmosphere because of constant solar wind. If we ever hope to inhabit Mars, we HAVE TO magnetize it. I don't know if anyone else has come up with what I'm about to propose, but I didn't steal this idea. Mars has an iron core, so, in theory, you could magnetize the core of mars like a bar magnet. How I think you could do this is by drilling to the core of the planet on both poles. Then you construct colossal electromagnets and expose the core to a powerful magnetic fields, then, you zap the iron core with thousand's of kilowatts of electricity. Doing this, as far as I'm concerned, would magnetize the core of the planet with out heating it up. The resulting magnetic field would also be much stronger than a normal planets field since high temperature isn't involved. Please, tell me what you think.

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    Aug 20 2012: You would need a really really long extension cord.
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      Aug 20 2012: I repeat. Helpful.
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        Aug 20 2012: I am. Just pointing out that you have not yet conceptualized "then, you zap the iron core with thousand's of kilowatts of electricity" as an operational application.
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          Aug 20 2012: You can transmit power through the air you know. That's why Nikola Tesla was such a big deal. He discovered radio and developed power transmission without cords.
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        Aug 20 2012: So like an interplanetary lightening strike? I like it:)

        Not sure if there is air between here and mars though.
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    Aug 17 2012: Earth already has exactly the right magnetic field we need and so is her atmosphere. As long as we do not learn to value that, there is no need to crank up any other planet. And if we do learn to value, there was no need either.

    So even on solar system scale, it seems, that the grass on the other side looks always greener... :o)
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      Aug 17 2012: Why would their be no need? Do explain.
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        Aug 17 2012: Because the only need to do so was to avoid any change in our lifestyle and to keep our excessive waste of limited resources. This way we would just plunder another planet to start thinking about terraforming Venus ...

        We can do better than that and the budged and resources needed for magnetizing Mars would find better use on our home planet earth at any given time.

        Also the risk for our current planet could be immense and irresponsible against mankind by such a project.

        As a lot of electrical energy was needed for your concept, nuclear power would the only known form today to get it realized under the given conditions. So if uranium was not on Mars itself, or to difficult to mine, it was to be shipped off earth to set up those huge power plants at the poles.

        One single accident of a rocket during take off or in near orbit, with just a single nuclear fuel rod on board would be disasterous to life on earth as we know it and contaminate our food by radiation for centuries.

        Many space missions carried already enough nuclear based fuel into orbit which could have endangered our planet to the highest degree. Even Curiosity has 5kg (10 pounds) of plutonium-238
        in its nuclear battery which is higly toxic and could have caused a nuclear desaster if the rocked had failed within the athmosphere. No space agency is talking much about the risks they are taking.

        And even if there was enough radioactive material on mars itself. You would need to send all this mining equipment, all the mining robots, all initial power plants, all construction material and constuction robots to build the final power plants at the poles, and all of those would need to be heavy duty and therefore heavy in weight. Hundreds over hundreds rockets neede to be launched off earth, adding plenty tons of toxic gases into our already polluted athmosphere while wasting plenty tons of energy intensive light metals like aluminum and titanium, which waste themselves plenty of energy and resources.
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        Aug 17 2012: After all of this additional plundering and pollution of our planet you would just have gained two power plants on Mars, starting to induce energy into the core in hope to intensify a magnetic field...

        The rest of terraforming didn't even start...

        By all of this waste the only argument which was running urgent was the call for another planet, as the old one would have been pushed even closer to its limits...

        With a bit of calculation you could estimate the equivalent of the carbon footprint of this single project and I would not be surprised if the cost-benefit calculation would go against the best spaceship we already inhabit - our planet earth.

        So what better needs you see to justify this sacrifice, and please do not stess any maybe or sometime technology of any golden future we haven't enter yet. Do explain.
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          Aug 17 2012: Lejan you're burning up.

          It's true though that the solar system is for the brave and the brave only to explore, as is the Earth.

          Terraforming in principle is not a hazard. In practice though we would have to take great precaution to analyze any microbes already present upon that planet and the conditions that they choose to be suitable for life before imposing another climate upon their residence. Ultimately instead we should support these microbes in their love of reproduction and design foremost a planet that they might be able to easier reproduce across.

          Unity in diversity.
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          Aug 17 2012: Just to get this out of the way, rockets use oxygen and hydrogen as fuel, so the exhaust is H20. Shipping fuel rod's to mars wouldn't actually be that dangerous because fuel rod's are only 3% enriched. You can actually hold a fuel pallet safely. Secondly, the rewards would outweigh the "sacrifices" by pumping vast amounts of money into the global economy. Mars is obviously rich in iron because of the amount of Iron oxide on it's surface. Iron the basis for producing steel which plays a large role in human society. Mars, once a sustainable colony is set up, would pay for itself by acting as a gigantic mine. All the materials that are toi be used to send things to mars can be recycled anyways.
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        Aug 17 2012: Yes, space exploration appears inviting, and geo-engineering is a new science, and I for one believe in spreading the name of Nature around the Universe as far as possible, assisting all those tiny cells already living in space to start some massive ecological empires!
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        Aug 18 2012: Just to get it back in the way, no rocket launch system is running on oxygen / hydrogen (LH2/LOX) fuels exclusively!

        Even the massive Space Shuttle H2O engine added only 1/4 of its overall thrust and 3/4 was gained out of the two solid rocket booster, mainly running on Ammonium perchlorate and aluminum, polluting carbon dioxide and hydrogen chloride in the atmosphere.

        Curiosity was launched to Mars by an Atlas V rocket, which runns on kerosene and liquid oxygen (RP-1) in its first stage, producing carbon dioxide, toxic carbon monoxide emissions and oxides of nitrogen (NOx).

        So no rocket produces just water vapour and this for technological as well as for financial reasons. Therefore pollution could NOT be avoided and the damage to our atmosphere would stay tremendous and irresponsible!

        Regarding nuclear fuel rod's I just can't follow your 3% enrichment argument, as it misses any weight reference!

        An average nuclear power plant contains about 200 fuel rod's. Each fuel rod is filled with about 1.800 kg of fuel pallets, which, by a 3% enrichment, adds up to 54 kg of U-235 within a single rod.

        54 kg of U-235, scattered within lower atmosphere, is nothing we wish to have for our health.

        It would take 400 flights for all fuel rod's of just two normal size nuclear power plants on Mars if for savety reasons only one rod would be launched at a time. By a given failure rate of 2 out of 100 take off's of a highly improved rocket system, this would result in an overall risk of:

        432 kg of U-235 !!!

        beeing released in earth atmosphere.

        And this very simple risk analysis does not even include all the nuclear material needed in isotopic batteries for hundreds of constructing, drilling, mining and maintenance robots.

        So a single fuel pallet what may seems easy and fun to hold solid in your hand becomes pretty dangerous once released in form of airborne particles and inhaled day by day without any escape.

        Nothing outweighs this 'sacrifices'!
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          Aug 19 2012: What you said about rocket emissions, I didn't know. So thank you form informing me.

          However, all the fuel rod risks you state are all assuming that Mars doesn't have any fissile material on it at all. Saying such a thing would be bologna. The Mars orbiter(I can't remember it's full name) has detected gamma ray emission from mars which suggests natural nuclear fission which also indicates the presence of Uranium and other radio isotopes. And once again, Mars would act like a giant mine, essentially paying for itself.

          I also think that instead of using rockets, we might end up using different means of putting materials into orbit. One such technology that can produce significant thrust is a rocket design where you have a stream of water come out of the bottom of the vessel that is vaporized by either lasers or microwaves. I think this may be a possible candidate for putting payloads into orbit rather than rockets. Although, it hasn't gained much attention yet either.
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    Gail . 50+

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    Aug 18 2012: What do you do with the soil that the crawler removes? How do you get the dirt out of your hole? How do you power your crawler when it's so deep in a hole that the sun won't reach it? What happens when you reach a big rock?

    When we are able to move through space at very fast speeds and with more technology, we will be able to use that technology to do as you say, and you might be speaking words that are prescient in that regard. But for now, with our current technology, we would be better off depolluting our own aquifers and creating hydroponic sky scrapers and creating an earth friendly energy program and using our own resources more carefully. But keep thinking creative ideas. Humankind is lost without them.
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      Aug 19 2012: Absolutely.
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      Aug 19 2012: Gail, I think you are somewhat blinded only by the colossal size of such project. Remember, we aren't going to Mars for e few more decades(so they say). So, we still have a chance to do all of what you stated and all of it is necessary.

      About your questions, the soil would be moved behind the crawler just like how a drill bit moves the dust out of it's way. As for power, I can imagine an on board LFTR, that way you don't have to have a power source on the surface. For a large dense area, you can use radar to detect such an area and shift the crawler at such an angle that it just grazes it.
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    Aug 17 2012: From my understanding, Earth's core is made of nickel and cobalt, both are elements with magnetic properties. To make Mars magnetic like earth, we would need to change its core to something like Nickel/Cobalt. And not to mention, we would need large quantities.

    Perhaps the smarter/easier way to live on Mars is not to change Mars itself, but to change humans.

    In other words, how can we adapt to Mars' environments?
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      Aug 17 2012: We simply can't. I presume you are talking about genetic engineering. Mars has an extremely toxic atmosphere which will be eaten away by solar wind in a very short time(on a cosmic scale of course). Mars's atmosphere is mostly carbon dioxide, so we would, in simple words, have to change humans to moving globs of vegetation.
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        Aug 17 2012: So then, how do we change the atmosphere to more oxygen-based, if it isn't possible for humans to adapt and live off of carbon-dioxide. What about trying to sustain enough plant-life there? Plants pretty much breathe carbon dioxide.

        And hey, changing humans to globs of vegetation sounds pretty cool actually. We wouldn't even need to eat anymore, we could just photosynthesize. It'll be like "Ok feeding time, time to take a nap outside" lol
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          Aug 17 2012: As silly as this sounds, just like in science fiction, we could use small asteroids to bombard the poles of mars and release millions of tons of carbon dioxide, thus causing a greenhouse affect. These asteroids could even be constructed by using waste minerals that we have no use for. This is the window of opportunity where we can plant vast amounts of plant life in order to release oxygen. If you were wondering, when plant's absorb carbon dioxide, a chemical reaction takes place where the two atoms of oxygen are removed from the single atom of carbon, so, you end up with a single carbon atom and two oxygen atoms which get released.

          To be honest, I agree that it would be pretty amazing if humans were turned to walking plant's. That's almost worthy of being in a Science Fiction movie. Although, if i was turned to a plant, I would feel so empty all the time without having to eat normal food. I hate to admit it,but I would probably miss those cheap frozen dinners from the grocery store.
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        Aug 17 2012: Hey, that's pretty good thinking, we get rid of our waste and we create future life on Mars. Sounds like win-win to me if this can really work.

        Hey, remember, we are both herbivores and carnivores, unlike other animals. Maybe next step in human anatomical evolution is becoming herbivores/carnivores/self-sustainers lol. We have the option to eat them frozen dinners or we have option to do... nothing...
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          Aug 18 2012: Another idea that I had on the matter is that you could construct artificial moons around Mars that occasionally aline in such a way that it causes tidal friction. This is why Io has volcanic activity. These moons could also be constructed from waste materials both from earth and from mining asteroids. In case you haven't heard already, an asteroid mining company backed by James Cameron, Google and former NASA scientists, is just getting started. There will for sure be waste minerals so we will definitely have enough materials to build artificial moons piece by piece.

          Oh, and honestly, I think I would rather eat physical food rather than rely off photosynthesis. Life would be a bit bland without my favorite food's. But really, that idea could be something that could be put into a book.
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          Aug 18 2012: Yes, we are omnivores, much like the bears. As for becoming producers, would we require development of green skin? Sounds very martian-esque...

          As for constructing artificial moons around Mars, I hope you're not thinking about building some death star? It didn't go well for that evil empire in the end, the Jedi kicked their big shiny death star ass! Their storm troopers weren't even up to scratch, beaten back by furry balls of fluff with nothing except rocks and ropes. Nope, I refuse to work alongside such a diabolical and ill-prepared empire.
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        Aug 18 2012: I'm liking where this is going :)

        In terms of waste, I was already just thinking about shooting them to the Sun or something, but this definitely gives more value to waste.
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          Aug 18 2012: I guess you can't really classify it as waste any more. Although, this hasn't happened yet, so it's still just waste at the moment.
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          Aug 18 2012: the Sun doesn't/don't want you're/no waste!
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        Aug 18 2012: Tbh, nothing is truly real waste, it's only wasteful because we're not using them efficiently

        @Sebastian

        Well some tiny waste is like so miniscule compared to the Sun, it wouldn't affect our sun on grand impact I thought
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          Aug 18 2012: The sun swallows up comets and asteroids all the time, so I don't think a bunch of trash would do anything to harm the sun.
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    Aug 17 2012: Just a thought - even if we did create a magnetic field on Mars today, it would still be hundreds of thousands if not millions of years before an atmosphere on Mars formed. But perhaps we'd be shielded from the solar winds immediately.

    Also, we've never done planetary "sculpting" before. What if creating a magnetic field on Mars totally jacks up something important and unexpected (i.e. killing microbial life that already exists on Mars or unleashes a chemical or substance we don't know/understand yet)?

    I agree with the assertion that we should treat this planet better and respect our own Earth and its perfect magnetic field so that we don't have the necessity to create a magnetic field on Mars.
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      Aug 17 2012: Creating an atmosphere for Mars wouldn't take as long as you think. Once the temperature on mars was raised, which would yield water as a result, we could fill the martian lakes with algae and plant UV resistant plant's on it's surface. It would only take around a century or less to form an atmosphere that humans could safely breath. About possible microbes on Mars, In presume they would be preserved in a laboratory on some sort either on mars or earth. It is likely that such microbes consume minerals and carbon dioxide and since that would all still be there, martian microbes would still be safe.
  • Aug 30 2012: An iron asteroid orbiting on Mars, as a moon, can magnetize Mars iron core?
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    Aug 17 2012: Drag one of Jupiter's larger moons to it (or planet x if it hasn't already gone by) This will cause the crust to shift in response to the orbit, heating up the now-cold core and restoring the magnetic field. You could also make mars and earth twins, like twin stars that orbit around themselves. Of course, doing this would increase earth's tectonic activity, so it might be pretty bad for earths inhabitants.

    Meanwhile, either of these solutions would be as practical as the one you suggest. A drill bit would have to be almost 8,000 km long, or meeting two 4,000 km drill bits in the center would have to be exceptionally exact.

    I personally think that earth should be quarantined before we mess up more planets. As it stands now, we're a pretty barbaric species, though we don't have to be.
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      Aug 17 2012: Blimey! Dragging one of Jupiter's (by far the most powerful planet in our solar system) moons from Jupiter's incredible gravitation force?? Or better yet, break planet X from the gravity of the sun. At which point?? Practically its closest point to the sun?? You must be insane...

      Hmm. If you the human cannot push a small vehicle from its path along the road then what you suggest is improbable at best.

      I do agree with you in your final paragraph. We are barbaric. Though also tender and loving when we finally arrive at our cottages.
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      Aug 17 2012: Gail, I respectfully disagree with you. The drill bit wouldn't have to be very long. If you had some sort of crawler that moves down as it digs, then you could have a relatively short drill bit. Not to be offensive, but the plan I suggested is far more practical than yours.
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    Aug 17 2012: First note - the distance to drill to the core of Mars is vast and expensive.

    Question - how are we to construct these colossal electromagnets? Also, where do we place these electromagnets? Do you have any blueprints or is this science fiction?

    Second note - would a thousand kilowatts of electricity suffice?
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      Aug 17 2012: Just to get this out of the way, I meant THOUSAND'S of kilowatts. These electromagnets would basically be extremely large coils. Placed in arrays around the core. Then, nuclear reactors would charge up large capacitor banks that would discharge into the iron rich core, thus magnetizing the core.