TED Conversations

Kevin Jacobson

This conversation is closed.

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.


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    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)
    • thumb
      Aug 17 2012: Why would their be no need? Do explain.
      • thumb
        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.
      • thumb
        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.
        • thumb
          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.
        • thumb
          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.
      • thumb
        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!
      • thumb
        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'!
        • thumb
          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.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.