Scientists Planning First-ever Mission to Drill Into Earth’s Mantle
Cross section of planet Earth showing the crust, outer mantle, inner mantle, outer core, and inner core, made by solid iron and nickel. (Getty Images)
Cross section of planet Earth. A new Japanese effort would try tot be the first ever to drill down through the Earth’s crust to the mantle (in red). (Getty Images)


A Japan-led research time is planning the world’s first drilling mission into the Earth’s mantle, the slowly-moving rocky layer between the planet’s crust and its outer core.

Once a final site for the effort is chosen, the Japanese deep-sea drilling vessel Chikyu is planning to probe down through 2.5 miles of water and drill through 3.7 miles of the crust to reach the mantle, which moves tectonic plates and affects volcanic activity. It comprises 80 percent of the planet’s volume.

Japan’s Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) is conducting the mission to research the role the Earth’s mantle plays in earthquakes, volcanoes, and other geological phenomena on the surface, Japan News reports. The research will also help scientists learn more about how it was formed and the possibility of it holding microbial life.

The expedition is planned for the 2030’s, but the team will have to choose the best location first. Choosing a site in the deep ocean will make the process easier than drilling on land because the crust is about half as thick. JAMSTEC will explore the waters off Hawaii in September. Other possible locations include areas off the coast of Mexico and Costa Rica.