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Scientists are going to drill deeper into the Earth than ever before

Published Apr 10th, 2017 5:34PM EDT

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It might come as a bit of a surprise, considering we walk around on it all day long, but science hasn’t really ever seen fit to find out what’s inside of our planet. Thanks to volcanic eruptions we know it’s a molten mix of various elements, with the pressure of gravity having turned it into an extremely hot liquid stew, but what exactly it is made of has remained a mystery simply because nobody has ever had the right combination of funding and technology to actually drill deep enough to make a solid conclusion. By 2030, Japan wants to be the first to do it, by digging deeper into Earth than anyone ever has before.

The plan, cooked up by the Japanese Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology — JAMSTEC for short — is to send an extremely long drill rig down through the depths of the ocean and straight through the crust. The drill will splash through nearly 2.5 miles of water before hitting rock, at which point it’ll still have nearly 4 miles to bore through before it reaches the mantle.

The researchers will use the hole to examine the area between the mantle and the ocean floor to get a better sense of exactly how the crust of our planet formed. Scientists also hope to determine the maximum depth into the crust at which microbial life continues to exist, and to take samples of the mantle in order to figure out its composition.

The expedition will be carried out by Japan’s deep sea drilling rig called Chikyu, and JAMSTEC plans to start the extremely pricey project — it’ll cost over half a billion dollars — by 2030 at the absolute latest.

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