Japan has plans to drill through the earth’s crust and reach the mantle

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Fred Weiss/123RF
Few things get us more excited than audacious research projects which also sound like potential blackmail plots from an old James Bond movie.

Fortunately, a new venture from the scientists at the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) hits both checkpoints with flying colors.

It is planning to be the first firm in history to successfully drill down into Earth’s mantle, referring to the molten rock center that lurks just beneath the planet’s outer crust. To put that in perspective, the mantle makes up around 80 percent of Earth’s entire mass.

Should all go according to plan, the researchers will find out more about the formation of our planet and the materials which form the mantle, which are still unknown to us. On top of that, the project may also help us (or the Japanese government, at least) better predict natural disasters such as earthquakes and volcanos.

At present, there are three different potential drilling sites in the running, all under the Pacific Ocean. One possible site is off the coast of Hawaii, another off of Costa Rica, and the third near Mexico. The drilling itself will be carried out by super advanced drilling vessel, the Chikyu. Using it, the plan is to start drilling 2.5 miles down on the ocean floor, before boring a further 3.7 miles straight down to reach the mantle.

“It’s the biggest drilling ship of our science area, so the drilling capability is three times longer, or deeper, than … previous [vessels],” researcher Natsue Abe, who works for JAMSTEC, told CNN.

There is still a while to wait, however, since the project isn’t expected to commence until around 2030. Prior to that, the researchers need to work out a few technical details they will face, as well as raising 60 billion yen (about $540 million) estimated as the project’s cost.

Maybe a Kickstarter would help?

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