Mars isn't particularly habitable to humans at the moment, but NASA's latest brainstorm could one day bring back the planet's beaches—or at least some of its oceans, Engadget reports. At a workshop in DC last week, scientists from the agency's Planetary Science Division presented the possibility of erecting a magnetic shield around the Red Planet to replace the one that vanished more than 4 billion years ago and boost what's left of Mars' atmosphere, per Phys.org. The result of such a shield, according to the researchers, would be protection from solar radiation and winds, which have worked over the eons to help strip the planet of its waters and warmth. The shield could, therefore, help "terraform" Mars to more closely resemble Earth.
In a plan some say is "so crazy it just might work," the shield (maybe an inflatable one) would be placed at the L1 Lagrange Point. It would hopefully thicken the atmosphere to the point where carbon dioxide ice at the planet's north pole would thaw, spur greenhouse-gas warming, and melt regular ice, which would restore up to one-seventh of Mars' oceans, according to NASA estimates. Per the scientists' report on what they admit is a "fanciful" topic, this "enhanced" atmosphere would be more conducive to human exploration, offering more possible oxygen extraction, more plant growth in "open-air" greenhouses, and the ability of larger structures to land on the planet's surface. (Stephen Hawking says we only have about 1,000 years left on Earth.)