$1 billion dollar project underway to drill into Earth’s mantle

October 2, 2012 EARTH - Humans have reached the moon and are planning to return samples from Mars, but when it comes to exploring the land deep beneath our feet, we have only scratched the surface of our planet. This may be about to change with a $1 billion mission to drill 6 km (3.7 miles) beneath the seafloor to reach the Earth’s mantle — a 3000 km-thick layer of slowly deforming rock between the crust and the core which makes up the majority of our planet — and bring back the first ever fresh samples. It could help answer some of our biggest questions about the origins and evolution of Earth itself, with almost all of the sea floor and continents that make up the Earth´s surface originating from the mantle. Geologists involved in the project are already comparing it to the Apollo Moon missions in terms of the value of the samples it could yield. However, in order to reach those samples, the team of international scientists must first find a way to grind their way through ultra-hard rocks with 10 km-long (6.2 miles) drill pipes — a technical challenge that one of the project co-leaders Damon Teagle, from the UK’s University of Southampton calls, “the most challenging endeavor in the history of Earth science.” ‘A ship flying in space:’ Earth seen through the eyes of an astronaut. “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. Their task will be all the more difficult for being conducted out in the middle of the ocean. It is here that the Earth´s crust is at its thinnest at around 6 km compared to as much as 60 km (37.3 miles) on land. They have already identified three possible locations — all in the Pacific Ocean — where the ocean floor was formed at relatively fast spreading mid-ocean ridges, says Teagle. The hole they will drill will be just 30 cm in width all the way from the ocean floor to inside the mantle — a monumental engineering feat. “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 on the bottom, and then drilling a few meters into the foundations,” says Teagle. To get to the mantle scientists will be relying on a purpose-built Japanese deep-sea drilling vessel called Chikyu, first launched in 2002 and capable of carrying 10 km of drilling pipes. It has already set a world-record for the deepest hole in scientific ocean drilling history, reaching 2.2 km into the seafloor. Read more: Super telescope to search for secrets of the universe. What makes the task even more difficult is that, currently, the drill bits have a limited lifespan of between 50-60 hours before needing to be replaced; meaning drilling could take many years unless technology improves. The first attempts to reach the Earth’s mantle actually began back in the early 1960s. Dubbed “Project Mohole” after the Croatian meteorologist Andrija Mohorovicic who first discovered the boundary between the Earth’s crust and mantle, a team of U.S. scientists managed to drill a few meters into the oceanic crust off Guadalupe Island in the eastern pacific. The achievement was recognized by a telegram from President John F. Kennedy but the project was closed down in 1966. Since then, a Russian-project in the far north Kola Peninsula during the 1980s has taken over the record for the deepest borehole ever drilled, reaching 12 km into the earth’s crust. –CNN
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18 Responses to $1 billion dollar project underway to drill into Earth’s mantle

  1. Stan says:

    Anything, whatever it takes to find Jimmy Hoffa.

  2. Irene C says:

    I know this would a fascinating scientific study, but a lot of bad sci-fi movies come to mind. But that’s just me, I guess.

  3. Colin says:

    Idiotic. Waste of time and money and everything else.

  4. GaurNitai says:

    Krishna states in Bhagavad Gita: 16 .7 “pravrttim ca nivrttim ca, jana na vidur asurah, na shaucam napi cacaro, na satyam tesu vidyate”

    “Those who are demoniac do not know what is to be done and what is not to be done. Neither cleanliness nor proper behavior nor truth is found in them.”

    As per Vedic scriptures, drilling disturbs the rotation of our planet and mother Earth does not tolerate it. She expresses her displeasure through earthquakes and mine disasters. This is another example of colossal waste of money that could have helped humanity for something else really useful like character building in teens.

    Whatever we need to survive comfortably on this planet has already been provided by God through Mother Nature and the prime duty and responsibility of humans is to utilize all our time and resource for spiritual realization, a domain specially available to humans alone. But those who are miscreants will always misuse resources provided by God to deny God and to exploit mother Earth for their unlimited greed and all of this simply increases their suffering in the end. For all the billions of dollars worth of wasteful exploits of moon and mars exploration or $1 billion deep drilling of mother Earth, scientists have hardly changed anything for humanity that actually matters such as dissatisfaction, poverty, crime, divorce, diseases, depression, debt, suicide, pollution, economic instability, wars, etc…. in fact their activities is increasing all of these ills of society more and more as days pass.

    • Leah says:

      They have to do all this now, because in a few generations the school system won’t be able to produce scientists, doctors, or really any of the skilled laborers we depend on now.

  5. Bone Idle says:

    Hmmmm… If you care to go to a place like Indonesia where in some equatorial areas the crust is especially thin, you don’t have to go very far to drill into the mantle – as a few drillers who have been searching for oil will attest to. Melted drill bits.

  6. niebo says:

    Oh, how neat! It’s just like how BP drilled into the Gulf. . .only deeper.

  7. tonic says:

    A pin into a balloon.

  8. Bill Rind says:

    what a waste of money and time, and who is paying for this!!!

  9. Roberto Lupe says:

    Any resemblance to the movie “The Core” is not coincidental!!

  10. Morgean says:

    Really. This is pure insanity. The disregard toward earth first and foremost. And the money? I thought we were in debt? Do we not have hungry, homeless, people in need of medical care right here at home? If we have the money to spend it could be better spent in so many other ways. We have raped and ravaged planet earth – the planet that sustains us and as if that isn’t enough damage done – we will continue on with the devastation. Priorities. Thanks Alvin for your rentless devotion to your site.

  11. Grendon Jonson says:

    Oh yeah! drill a hole through the Earth into the molten lava which is at pressure so great it causes volcano’s. Go On…Do it. and rue the day.

  12. merle says:

    This quote comes to mind…enough said! Don’t blow it – good planets are hard to find. ~Quoted in Time

  13. Wendy says:

    I will never understand how we all share this planet but the powers that be get to decide to do things like this that may or may not have devastating results. Should the citizens of the world have a say in what is done to the planet?
    Doesn’t the planet belong to ALL of us?

    • Irene C says:

      That’s because the powers that be make sure the masses are kept diverted with mindless garbage so that they don’t know or don’t care about what’s going on. As long as their little world isn’t disturbed and they have their little toys, that is.

  14. Tee says:

    The hole will only be 30cm wide, and i would hope they would have gone into the physics of actually piercing the mantle, in fact i’m sure they have, but…it is pretty unexplored territory, experimentally (thankfully physics is based in mathematics, which is predictably scaleable). I do have a bad feeling, and hopefully i wont be anywhere near the ocean during the time period when they plan on getting through…very large scale physics at work there. IMHO The “balloon pop” idea is kind of silly, more realistically we create a very large volcano, maybe some huge earthquakes, maybe tsunami, could displace a LOT of ocean and raise sea level. just possibilities of course.

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