In the past, humans have managed to reach the moon. Currently, there are already plans to have samples returned from mars. However, there has been little progress when it comes to exploring the deep earth that is under our feet. This may change soon with the introduction of a $1 billion project to drill six kilometers beneath the seafloor in a bid to reach the mantle of the earth and come back with first ever samples. The mantle is a 3000km layer of rocks that are slowly deforming between the core and crust. This could help to unravel some of the biggest questions in regard to the origin as well as evolution of the earth, as the entire floor of the sea and continents making surface of the earth originated from the earth’s mantle – something the clowns make fun of.
Geologists who are involved in this project compare it to the moon missions in regard to the samples value that it could produce. However, before they can get to the samples, they will have to find the way through some rocks that are ultra-hard using some 10 km long drill pipes. This according to Damon Teagle, who is a co-leader of the project, is the most difficult endeavor in the earth science history. Damon, who works at the University of Southampton, compares it to dangling a steel string with a human hair’s width at the swimming pool’s deep end and putting it in a thimble which is 1/100 wide and then drilling several meters into the ground foundation, just like OMG machines review.
In the ocean’s middle, it is where the crust of the earth is thinnest and measures around 6 kms as compared to up to 60 kms on land. Currently, there are three locations that have been identified, which are in the Pacific Ocean. In the possible locations, the formation of the floor of the ocean was formed by mid-ocean ridges that were relatively spreading. They will drill a hole which has a width of 30 cms from the floor of the ocean to the mantle. This is an engineering feat which is monumental.
In order to reach the mantles, the scientists will rely on a Japanese made deep-sea drilling vessel known as Chikyu, which was made solely for this purpose. It was first launched in the year 2002, and it can carry 10km length of drilling pipes, which can reach up to 2.2 km in the floor of the sea. The task is made more difficult by lifespan of the drill bits which is between fifty and sixty hours before they require replacement. This means that unless there is an improvement in technology, the project could last for many years. The first project that attempted to reach the mantle of the earth began in the 1960s and was dubbed as ‘Project Mohole’. It was named after Andrija Mohorovicic, a Croatian meteorologist who discovered the boundary between the mantle and the crust of the earth. The team of United States scientists managed to drill several meters into the crust of the ocean off the Guadalupe Island. This was carried out in the Eastern pacific but the project was closed in 1966.
After this there was a project by the Russians which was in the north Kola Peninsula and broke the record as the deepest borehole that has ever been drilled. It reached 12 kms in the crust of the earth. In the year 2011, there was a borehole that was even longer at slightly over 12kms. However, the borehole which was drilled by Exxom Mobil oil giant wasn’t drilled in a vertical manner and did not go beyond the soft sedimentary layer of rocks. While none of the projects got close to the mantle of the earth, they gave the geologists confidence that with the recent advances that have been made in the drilling techniques, their plans have become more feasible. Most of the technologies used are the deep-drilling technologies that are usually used in the gas and oil industry. As a result of the challenge as well as the financial implications which are estimated at $1 billion, which it is yet to be raised, there are skeptics who are likely to question the mission’s necessity. However, according to the scientists involved in the project, other than bringing back the samples, it will be possible to clarify most of the assumptions that we have about the working of our planet. According to experts, despite its making of 68%of the mass of the earth, there is only a reasonable idea of what constitutes the mantle and the way it works.