We might be able to make Mars habitable

A group of scientists have devised a plan to make Mars a little more hospitable to human life.

A computer modeling experiment suggests that we can use a spacecraft to create a magnetic field around Mars, shielding it from the solar wind that's stripping its thin atmosphere away, oxygen ion by oxygen ion.

SEE ALSO: The United Arab Emirates wants to build a city on Mars

If the plan works — and that's a big "if," it could melt the red planet's polar ice caps to bring back some liquid water to the Martian surface for the first time in billions of years.

"It has been estimated that nearly one-seventh of the ancient ocean of Mars is trapped in the frozen polar cap," the abstract for the proposal, which was presented at NASA's Planetary Science Vision 2050 Workshop last week, reads.

Billions of years ago, Mars had plenty of liquid water on its surface, but the small world has since lost much of its atmosphere due to the solar wind shot out by the sun, becoming the cold, dry world we now see today.

According to the proposal, by sending a magnetic field-creating spacecraft out to a stable point in orbit beyond Mars, it could help shield the planet from the worst effects of the solar wind and prevent it from stripping the atmosphere.

From there, Mars' atmospheric pressure could bounce back somewhat.

If the plan does succeed, "Mars may once again become a more Earth-like habitable environment," the paper adds.

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Surface of Mars
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Surface of Mars
Portions of the Martian surface shot by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show many channels from 1 meter to 10 meters wide on a scarp in the Hellas impact basin, in this photograph taken January 14, 2011 and released by NASA March 9, 2011. Scientists have found the first evidence that briny water may flow on the surface of Mars during the planet's summer months, a paper published on Monday showed. Researchers found telltale fingerprints of salts that form only in the presence of water in narrow channels cut into cliff walls throughout the planet's equatorial region. REUTERS/NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona/Handout FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
Dark, narrow, 100 meter-long streaks on Mars inferred to have been formed by contemporary flowing water are seen in an image produced by NASA, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and the University of Arizona. Scientists have found the first evidence that briny water may flow on the surface of Mars during the planet's summer months, a paper published on Monday showed. NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/Handout THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
Dark narrow streaks called recurring slope lineae emanating out of the walls of Garni crater on Mars are seen in an image produced by NASA, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and the University of Arizona. Scientists have found the first evidence that briny water may flow on the surface of Mars during the planet's summer months, a paper published on Monday showed. NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/Handout THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
A circular depression on the surface of Mars is pictured in his image acquired on Jan. 5, 2015 by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), provided by NASA. The spacecraft has been orbiting Mars since March 2006 and completed its 40,000th orbit around Mars on Feb. 7, 2015. REUTERS/NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/Handout
NASA's Mars rover Curiosity's hole drilled into a rock target, "Cumberland," on Mars on May 19, 2013 is shown in this NASA photo. NASA?s Mars rover Curiosity has found carbon-containing compounds in samples drilled out of an ancient rock, the first definitive detection of organics on the surface of Earth?s neighbor planet, scientists said on Tuesday. REUTERS/NASA/Handout (OUTER SPACE - Tags: SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity is shown in this handout photo released to Reuters July 29, 2014. Opportunity has set a new off-Earth, off-road distance record, logging just over 25 miles (40 km) on the surface of the Red Planet to surpass the old benchmark set in 1973 by a Russian probe on the moon. REUTERS/NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State University/Handout (UNITED STATES - Tags: SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
This image from the right Mast Camera (Mastcam) of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows rough spherical features on the surface of the planet in an area called 'Yellowknife Bay' in this NASA handout released January 15, 2013. These features are interpreted as concretions, implying they formed in water that percolated through pores in the sediment. Spherical concretions have previously been discovered in other rocks on Mars. REUTERS/NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/Handout (OUTERSPACE - Tags: SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY ENVIRONMENT) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
An image from the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA's Mars rover Curiosity shows the surface of the planet with inclined layering known as cross-bedding in an outcrop called "Shaler" on a scale of a few tenths of a meter, or decimeters (1 decimeter is nearly 4 inches) in this NASA handout released January 15, 2013. REUTERS/NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/Handout (OUTERSPACE - Tags: SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY ENVIRONMENT) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
The surface of the planet Mars inside Gale's Crater is shown as NASA's Mars rover Curiosity drives toward a flat rock with pale veins that may hold clues to a wet history on the planet in this NASA handout photo released January 15, 2013. If the rock meets rover engineers' approval when Curiosity rolls up to it in coming days, it will become the first to be drilled for a sample during the Mars Science Laboratory mission. REUTERS/NASA/Handout (OUTERSPACE - Tags: SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY ENVIRONMENT) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
NASA's Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity appears as a bluish dot near the lower right corner of this enhanced-color view from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter taken on June 27, 2013 and released on July 24, 2013. The rover's tracks are visible extending from the landing site, "Bradbury Landing," in the left half of the scene. Two bright, relatively blue spots surrounded by darker patches are where the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft's landing jets cleared away reddish surface dust at the landing site. REUTERS/NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona/Handout via Reuters (OUTER SPACE - Tags: ENVIRONMENT SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY) ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
A rock outcrop called Link pops out from a Martian surface in this NASA handout image taken by the 100-millimeter Mast Camera on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover September 2, 2012 and released September 27, 2012. Rounded gravel fragments, or clasts, up to a couple inches (few centimeters) in size are in a matrix of white material. The outcrop characteristics are consistent with a sedimentary conglomerate, or a rock that was formed by the deposition of water and is composed of many smaller rounded rocks cemented together. Scientists enhanced the color in this version to show the Martian scene as it would appear under the lighting conditions we have on Earth, which helps in analyzing the terrain. REUTERS/NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/Handout (UNITED STATES - Tags: SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY) THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
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This plan isn't what you typically think of as terraforming — remaking a planet's atmosphere to make it livable for humans.

Instead, the atmosphere would effectively remake itself as the world's atmosphere is given a break from the constant bombardment of solar wind.

"We let nature do it [change the climate of Mars]," NASA's Jim Green, who presented the experiment at the conference last week, said.

Creating this type of magnetic barrier would make it slightly easier for scientists to explore the not-too-distant world with the help of robotic helpers.

This experiment has its limitations. While computer modeling is a good option in place of practical experiments, it also means that this kind of mission is far from a sure thing.

At the moment, NASA has a fair number of robotic emissaries already roaming around on and above the red planet.

The agency's Maven spacecraft actually helped confirm that Mars' atmosphere was stripped off by the solar wind billions of years ago, and the Curiosity rover helped researchers figure out that the red world was once habitable for microbial life in Gale crater.

In the coming decades, NASA is planning to work toward sending people to orbit the red planet and eventually even land on it, bringing humanity to a brand new world.

RELATED: Check out these alien-looking landscapes found on Earth:

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Alien-looking, otherwordly landscapes found on Earth
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Alien-looking, otherwordly landscapes found on Earth
Dragon blood trees in rocky landscape, Homhil Protected Area, Socotra, Yemen
Mysterious moving rocks at a playa in Death Valley national Park called The Race Track
Turkey, Central Anatolia, Cappadocia, Unesco World Heritage Site, Uchisar village, the camel driver
Fire crater, gas crater, Door to Hell Darvaza crater, Derweze or Darvaza, Karakum Desert, Dasoguz Province, Turkmenistan
Kristal Icecave in Breiðamerkurljökul glacier in Iceland
The Haleakala silversword (Argyroxiphium sandwicense subsp. macrocephalum) is a rare plant found only the island of Maui on the dormant Haleakala volcano.Silverswords live between 3 and 90 years or more. They flower once, sending up a spectacular flowering stalk, and then die soon afterward, scattering drying seeds to the wind. Flowering events can differ dramatically from one flowering season to the next. The reasons for that are not understood.
Giant's Causeway on a cloudy day - Northern Ireland
Take in Athabasca Glacier, Jasper, Alberta, Canada
United States, Oregon, Dayville
Moeraki rocks found on the east coast of new zealand
High Angle View Of Grand Prismatic Spring In Yellowstone National Park
Frozen methane bubbles at Abraham lake at sunrise with beautiful sky.
A sand dune glows red at last light in this landscape image of the Namib Desert.
Salar de Uyuni hexagons at sunset
Colorful mountain in Danxia landform in Zhangye, Gansu of China.
The enchanting pools of Pamukkale in Turkey. Pamukkale contains hot springs and travertines, terraces of carbonate minerals left by the flowing water. The site is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Deep underground cave exploration of Karst cave 'Krizna jama', Slovenia. Roughly 8-9 km long, from 30 to 125 m deep, lots of chambers, siphons, corridors, small islands and roughly 40 lakes, stalactites, stalagmites and other specifical Karst rock formations.
Geysir
Dallol is volcano, Danakil desert, Ethiopia.
Michigan, United States of America
Snow covered wave taken during cold in Coyote Buttes North.
Egypt, Baharija, White desert
Cave halong bay
The blue ice cave at lake Baikal
This image was taken in the Fall of 2008 at Tufa State Park, Mono County, Mono Lake, California. This image is very rare as the lake water level is much higher now. I shot this at the cusp of dawn and no filters were used.
Zabriskie Point with Panamint Range in distance, Mojave Desert. Mutant nature Zabriskie Point is a part of Amargosa Range located east of Death Valley in Death Valley National Park in California, United States noted for its erosional landscape. It is composed of sediments from Furnace Creek Lake, which dried up 5 million years ago long before Death Valley came into existence.
Castildetierra
Baobab trees (Adansonia Grandidieri) reflecting in the water under the milky Way, Morondava, Toliara province, Madagascar.
(GERMANY OUT) Western Australia - Nambung National Park - limestone formations, called Pinnacles, at dusk (Photo by Mayall/ullstein bild via Getty Images)
Fingal's Cave on the Scottish Inner Hebrides island of Staffa.
Rocky cliffs reflected in the calm waters of Horseshoe Lake, Jasper National park, Alberta, Canada.
Abstract nature of Lower Antelope Canyon. The canyon is part of a series of slot canyons on Navajo land in Arizona, USA.
Sweden, Halsingland, Voxnan River at sunrise, winter
Huang Shan, Anhui Province, China
Nieve penitente is a spike or pillar of compacted snow or ice caused by differential melting and evaporation.
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