A team of international researchers want to drill deeper into the Earth than ever before to answer mysteries about our planet, CNN’s Tom Levitt reports. The cost of the mission? A whopping $1 billion.
The Integrated Ocean Drilling Program will start drilling from the bottom of the ocean floor in three possible locations in the Pacific Ocean. At these sites, it is so deep that the crust is relatively thin and the drill only has to get through about four miles of hard rocks that make up the crust. On land the crust can be up to about 30 miles thick.
The drilling will be performed by a Japanese deep-sea drilling vessel, Chikyu, which set a world-record for the deepest hole — 6,926 feet below the seafloor — in September. To reach the mantle, the team will have to go about three times deeper.
The mantle makes up 68 per cent of Earth’s mass. But reaching it takes many years. This is partly because the drill bits don’t last very long. “The drill bits have a limited lifespan of between 50-60 hours before needing to be replaced,” writes CNN:
[The task is] A technical challenge that one of the project co-leaders Damon Teagle, from the UK’s University of Southampton calls, “the most challenging endeavour in the history of Earth science.”
If funding for this project is met, the drilling may start before the end of the decade and the mantle may be reached by the early 2020’s, says CNN.
Bringing back samples will help scientists understand how the planet works and answer questions about the evolution of life on Earth.
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