Aside from war and disease, the biggest threat to our (future) space faring species is radiation. Whether it comes from the Sun, a Jovian parent, or from a distant black hole, radiation can easily determine which worlds will be ruled by humans and which ones will be roamed by our robotic friends.
Although many may point to underground colonies as a means to survive on these sterile worlds, such an idea may not attract the masses (as living underground does not provide a glamorous view of the universe). Worse, underground colonies may have a counter affect on us colonizing our solar system, with the vast majority of people opting to live on the home world than off world.
But what if we could construct gigantic magnetic devices enabling a planet or moon to be shielded by a magnetic field? Such a device would enable our species to not only colonize Jupiter’s Europa and Saturn’s E-ring moons (which are too radioactive for surface habitation, respectively) but also enable various plants and animals to thrive on the red planet.
Without such a device our species would be limited to colonizing Jupiter’s moons Ganymede and Callisto, not to mention Saturn’s Titan. Although radiation on Mars may be tolerable, it would probably not be the ideal place to terraform as any ecosystems exported there may suffer from the wrath of a solar flare.
Despite the fact that this technology would be centuries away, it may be reasonable to explore current ways of developing artificial magnetic fields, as it would enable us to not only conquer our own solar system, but those that orbit other stars.
(Image Credit: Windows to the Universe)