Scientists Drilling Into Dinosaur-Killing Asteroid's Crater For Lessons On Apocalypse Survival

Shelley Hazen

The mission to drill into the crater left behind when, 66 million years ago, a dinosaur-killing asteroid plummeted to Earth is set to begin in April.

Scientists will be drilling into the Chicxulub crater, the impact site of the dinosaur-killing asteroid, which is located off the coast of the Yucatan in Mexico, CNN reported.

The goal is to learn how life recovered after the dinosaur-killing asteroid wiped out most life on the planet. The lessons learned may be helpful for mankind, just in case an asteroid plunges toward Earth again. Which, according to NASA, isn't going to happen any time soon.

"You can assume that at ground zero of this impact we are dealing with a sterile ocean, and over time life renewed itself. We might learn something for the future," said Research Professor Sean Gulick of University of Texas Institute for Geophysics.

Gulick said he expects to find evidence that of a barren wasteland at first -- evidence that the asteroid ended up killing everything in its path, including every single dinosaur. And then, eventually, the blossom of new life, which then evolved and became more diverse over time.

The dinosaur-killing asteroid was incredibly powerful, possibly a billion times stronger than the atomic bomb and generated a "domino effect" of natural disasters. The asteroid also changed the makeup of the Gulf of Mexico, dislodging enough sediment from the gulf to fill Lake Superior 17 times.

The impact of the dinosaur-killing asteroid generated earthquakes and tsunamis that dumped this debris as far north as Texas and Florida and covered the Yucatan and Caribbean Basic with rocks, sand, gravel, and boulders.

Named Chicxulub after for a nearby village, the 125-mile wide crater was caused by a nine-mile wide asteroid; the impact set off forest fires and shot so much debris into the atmosphere it blotted out the sun, the Inquisitr previously reported. This is what wiped out the dinosaurs – and most other living things. The event left only birds in its wake and allowed small mammals to get a toehold -- humans came next.

It's the only known crater linked to such a devastating extinction.

Scientists will drill to a depth of 5,000 feet below the seabed, their destination the "peak ring" of the dinosaur-killing asteroid's crater. They'll analyze these rings, but also search its remains for signs of life, according to Sputnik International.

The peak ring is a circle of structures — similar to mountains — in the center. When a big rock, like an asteroid, hits the planet, the impact is similar to a rock hitting water. If the rock is going fast enough, when it finally makes contact the Earth's surface acts — for just a brief moment — like a liquid. What forms first is called a "transient crater" in the center. This then splashes up and out.

The rocks in the peak rings are porous and may have protected microenvironments of exotic life. The sediments that then filled the crater over millions of years after the dinosaur-killing asteroid hit Earth should contain evidence of the earliest marine life, resurrected after the impact.

"The sediments that filled in the [crater] should have the record for organisms living on the sea floor and in the water that were there for the first recovery after the mass extinction event," said Gulick. "The hope is we can watch life come back."

So, how does drilling 5,000 feet into the crater of a dinosaur-killing asteroid that wiped out all life millions of years ago help mankind? Whatever scientists find there could harbor lessons for humanity and help researchers predict what could happen if another asteroid destroys our planet, said exploration geologist Jason Sanford.

"We pretty much knew what would happen if another asteroid of this size hit us today -- it would not be good -- but our work contributes to a larger body of work dedicated to understanding the many geologic and ecologic processes that happen when such large-magnitude events occur."