Ever wondered how much a trip to the center of the Earth might cost? Apparently around $1 billion. Geologists are beginning a mission to drill down to the Earth’s mantle to discover and learn more about the planet’s evolutionary turn. This is an expedition for science and not greed.
Geologist Damon Teagle is the project’s co-leader, and he wants to express how his team is planning to do “the most challenging endeavor in the history of Earth science.” Their goal is to reach the Earth’s mantle, which is the layer of rock before the Earth’s outer core, 3.7 miles (6 km) beneath the sea floor.
To accomplish this mission, the team is using drill bits that are 6.2 miles in length, and which last for only 50 to 60 hours at a time. The mantle’s slow-moving rock layer itself is 1,860 miles thick. Teagle and his team plan are planning a very slow pace in the hopes to one day reach their goal.
In an interview with NPR, Teagle explains his mission and why it’s important to understand the Earth’s evolution:
[We] are interested in the formation and evolution of the ocean crust, and also about the nature of the mole hole — which is this boundary between the crust and the mantle and the mantle itself — [so] we’re drilling into very hard, crystalline rocks — rocks that formed from the crystallization of magma. Whereas the oil companies, when they’re drilling, they’re drilling into sedimentary rocks that have been laid down in the oceans over the eons and captured organic material that eventually evolved to form petroleum and gas.
So actually, the rocks we’re drilling into are the rocks that sit beneath the sedimentary reservoirs that host the oil and gas. So they can drill deeper holes — but they’re not drilling into such hard rocks.
If Teagle and his team of geologists are successful, they will set the world record for creating the deepest hole on Earth. This would triple the current record set by Japanese deep-sea drilling vessel called Chikyu, which dug a hole over 1.3 miles (2.2 km) deep into the sea floor. Luckily, Teagle and his team are using Chikyu to get a head start on their mission.