Drilling Earth’s mantle is the next frontier for humans, who have already walked on the moon and put a robot on Mars.
Despite travels to the far reaches of space and the depths of the ocean, humans have barely scratched what is beneath our feet, CNN.com reported. That could soon change as a $1 billion project with a goal of drilling Earth’s mantle is being cooked up. The project would be able to find answers about the origins of Earth itself and what lies beneath its surface.
As CNN.com notes, geologists working on the project are comparing it to the Apollo Moon missions in terms of scientific value.
But drilling Earth’s mantle will not be an easy endeavor. To do so, a team of international scientists must grind through ultra-hard rocks with drill pipes more than six miles long, a challenge that Damon Teagle, from the UK’s University of Southampton calls, “the most challenging endeavor in the history of Earth science.”
“It will be the equivalent of dangling a steel string the width of a human hair in the deep end of a swimming pool and inserting it into a thimble 1/10 mm wide,” Teagle said.
And to make drilling earth’s mantle even more difficult, the project would need to take place in the Pacific Ocean, where the mantle is at its thinnest. On dry land it can be much thicker and more impenetrable.
The idea of drilling Earth’s mantle comes from the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program, which is looking to take on the project, ExtremeTech notes.
The mantle is a thick layer of super-heated, mostly solid rocks that sits between the top layer known as the crust and the dense core. Drilling Earth’s mantle would yield new scientific knowledge for a range of fields, including seismology, climatology, and plate tectonics.