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Is it possible to think about terraforming of Mars without taking into consideration its magnetic field ?
<< cofnij  |  Polish version

Second International Mars Society Convention
August 12-15, 1999,
University of Colorado in Boulder

mgr inż. Krzysztof Lewandowski
Wrocław, Polska

A few words about Mars history
Up to this moment, at the beginning of automated space missions, all the theories about Mars were based only on the research conducted from Earth. Assuming that the process of forming of Mars was similar to the forming of the Earth, we can state, that from 3,6 bln to 1,3 bln years ago, a primitive Mars crust was created. It was formed in a process of accumulation of many small space objects. About 1,3 bln years ago, the surface began to cool down and the dramatic Mars history started. We don't know exactly what have happened, but by analogy to the history of Earth, we can assume that following thing could have been found on Mars: a water reserve, an atmosphere and a magnetic field. We can also supose that Mars was then warmer than it is now.

We know that many years ago something occured on Mars, something that have evoked the deliverance of a great energy, which caused stormy smeltings and gigantic floods on the Red Planet. What was it? I could have been only one thing: an impact of one (or several) big space bodies into Mars crust. Proofs? The great impact craters on the southern hemisphere: Hellas Planitia and Argyre Planitia.

The Martian geoid It can explain an interesting question: why the northern hemisphere have such a variated surface ? Imagine that we have a dough sphere into space. Impact it from any direction. What do we see ? The impact wave that goes through the interior of the sphere provokes a burst on the opposite side of the planet. On Mars we find an interesting geological structure: Valles Marineris. A really big impact energy could bring a great internal friction inside the planet and, in effect, produce heat that have penetrated through the surface of frozen ground. It could have evoked effects of flood and intensified volcanic activity. But it isn't all. Assuming that the history of Mars creation was similar to that of Earth, we can suppose that the Red Planet had a strongly magnetic field. Impacts that have caused the graeatest craters, also caused another effect. A strong impact into a magnet can destroy its homogeneous magnetic field.

This phenomenon probably occured on Mars. After a cosmic disaster, Mars' magnetic field couldn't protect the atmosphere and the surface from the solar wind and cosmic rays anymore.

Present Mars magnetic field (information obtained from the soviet space probes type Mars) Gas atmosphere was overcharged by solar wind, as is overcharged an oil-colour under process with sand into gas stream. Present condition of Mars atmosphere is in gravitational, magnetic and thermodynamic equilibrum.

In his book "Making Mars habitable", Mr Chris McKay described only the thermical aspect of Mars terraforming -- warming up of the atmosphere. However, as we know from physics, particles of warm gas have an increased velocity. So, after warming the atmosphere, will the gravitational influence of Mars be strong enough to maintain it? No! From our experience, here on Earth, we know that atmospherical mechanisms are very complicated. We can suppose that there are some mechanisms in the atmosphere that are controling those effects. Perhaps magnetic dipols of water particles, perhaps some chemical compounds, or some other phenomenon that we do not know. All life forms we know evolved and are living under influence of a magnetic field. We cannot forget about it.The process of Mars terrafoming have to take into consideration the changing of magnitude of Mars' magnetic field. A project suggested by Mr Kim Stanley Robinson in his Mars Trilogy, a solar mirror on Mars orbit, is very good idea. It can be used to power a magnetic spool, which can increase the magnitude of Mars magnetic field.We shouldn't be in such a hurry in ourattempts to change Mars atmosphere, because it may be a Sysyf work without understanding all its aspects.

We should proceed with some extensive research on Earth atmosphere before begining to change environment on Mars. It could become our next home, but we cannot built it on inexplored ground.

Krzysztof Lewandowski


1. G.Balmino - The Martian geoid, The Cambridge Atlas of Astronomy, Cambridge University Press 1985;

2. Piotr Cieśliński - Global Surveyor, Pole wokół Marsa, Gazeta Wyborcza 23.09.1997, Warsaw 1997;

3. Arthur C. Clarke - The Snows of Olimpus, A Garden on Mars, (polish edition), Prószyński i S-ka, Warsaw 1997;

4. Sz.Sz. Dolginow and etc - Magnitnoje polje planiety Mars, Kosmochimija Luny i planet, Izdatielstwo Nauka, Moscow 1975;

5. Chris McKay - Making Mars habitable, Nature tom 352, No.6335, 8 August 1991

6. Alieksandr Portnow - Kak pogibla zhizn na Marsie, Niezawisimaja Gazieta, March 1998, Moscow 1998;

7. Kim Stanley Robinson - Mars Trilogy: Mars Red, Mars Green, Mars Blue, (polish edition), Prószyński i S-ka, Warsaw 1998;

8. Andrzej Trepka - Gniazda życia we Wszechświecie, Astronautyka 6/89; 1,2,3,4 / 90, Warsaw 1989-1990;

9. Robert Zubrin - The Case for Mars, (polish edition), Prószyński i S-ka, Warsaw 1997.

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