If you’re like most of us here at the Optimist Daily, then you probably think it’s wiser to spend money creating solutions down here on Earth rather than dedicating billions towards attempting to inhabit Mars. But before we can even think about settling on the big red planet, the question is: is it even possible to make Mars into a life-friendly world? According to a new study, the answer is yes.

Researchers say that by placing thin layers of silica aerogel on or above the Martian surface, humanity could make patches of Mars habitable—without having to spend a fortune. The insulating aerogel would warm the ground enough to melt ice and would also block harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation, potentially creating an environment where plants and other photosynthetic life could flourish. And apparently, we could start doing this relatively soon, researchers say.

The Martian surface was eminently habitable in the ancient past, featuring lakes, rivers, and even a huge ocean. But things changed dramatically after the planet lost its global magnetic field about 4 billion years ago. However, with the help of silica aerogel, it could be possible to bring parts of Mars back to a habitable state.