Which leads us neatly onto the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in the UK, which has devised a "mini magnetosphere" that essentially recreates the protection provided by the Earth's magnetic field. The scientists have so far used the magnetosphere to protect a scale spacecraft from radiation, and they're now working on a concept spacecraft, called Discovery, with a full-scale magnetosphere that could theoretically take humans to Mars.
Science and science fiction have done a kind of dance over the last century, particularly with respect to Mars. The scientists make a finding. It inspires science fiction writers to write about it, and a host of young people read the science fiction and are excited, and inspired to become scientists to find out more about Mars, which they do, which then feeds again into another generation of science fiction and science; and that sequence has played major role in our present ability to get to Mars. -Carl Sagan
There once were two planets, new to the galaxy and inexperienced in life. Like fraternal twins, they were born at the same time, about four and a half billion years ago, and took roughly the same shape. Both were blistered with volcanoes and etched with watercourses; both circled the same yellow dwarf star—close enough to be warmed by it, but not so close as to be blasted to a cinder. Had an alien astronomer swivelled his telescope toward them in those days, he might have found them equally promising—nurseries in the making. They were large enough to hold their gases close, swaddling themselves in atmosphere; small enough to stay solid, never swelling into gaseous giants. They were "Goldilocks planets," our own astronomers would say: just right for life.
According to MSL scientists based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., the ball isn't as big as it looks — it's approximately one centimeter wide. Their explanation is that it is most likely something known as a "concretion." Other examples of concretions have been found on the Martian surface before — take, for example, the tiny haematite concretions, or "blueberries", observed by Mars rover Opportunity in 2004 — and they were created during sedimentary rock formation when Mars was abundant in liquid water many millions of years ago.