In the distant past, billions of years ago, Mars was in fact quite different! NASA and ESA missions have proven that the Red Planet once possessed a natural magnetic field, which disappeared when the core of Mars began to cool, turning it into a cold and less habitable planet. NASA researchers have recently come up with the idea of recreating the Mars magnetosphere, aimed at raising the ambient temperature and protecting the surface from the deleterious effects of radiation from outer space - something that would certainly favour Mars colonization.
The project would seem to belong to the realms of fiction, however, it actually has a good scientific foundation. Thus, terraforming Mars, i.e., transforming it into an Earth-like environment is the best solution for future manned missions to the Red Planet. After all, it took 4.5 billion years for life to emerge and evolve on Earth - humans are indeed Earthlings! To inhabit other worlds and travel on interplanetary missions, we need to terraform the environment around us!
Hollywood movies have already explored the idea of the terraformation of far off locations in the Universe. So the idea of recreating the Martian magnetosphere could possibly be another good example of how reality can copy fiction!
(English translation of an article published in Portuguese in the newspaper Diário Popular, Pelotas)
Greater detail of the proposed NASA project can be found on the Universe Today website