China has initiated the digging of a 10-kilometer-deep hole in Earth’s crust as the country explores the interior of the planet.
Beijing is moving fast in its aspirations of exploring new frontiers as it initiates a mission to track the inner and the outer boundary of the planet in space as well.
The 10,000 meters deep borewell is being dug in the Tarim Basin, northwest China’s Xinjiang province, which has remained in headlines for holding Uyghur Muslims.
The narrow shaft into the ground will penetrate more than 10 continental strata, or layers of rock, according to the report, and reach the cretaceous system in the Earth’s crust, which features rock dating back some 145 million years.
“The construction difficulty of the drilling project can be compared to a big truck driving on two thin steel cables,” Sun Jinsheng, a scientist at the Chinese Academy of Engineering, told Xinhua.
President Xi Jinping called for greater progress in deep Earth exploration in a speech addressing some of the nation’s leading scientists in 2021. Such work can identify mineral and energy resources and help assess the risks of environmental disasters, such as earthquakes and volcano eruptions.
Digging into the Earth doesn’t always go so smoothly. An American team in the 1960s reached 183 meters (600 feet) beneath the seafloor, going through 13 meters (43 feet) of basalt in the uppermost layer of oceanic crust before the project was canceled due to mismanagement and financial troubles. With these problems aside, the task is still a huge undertaking.
The hole, while impressively deep, will not be the deepest human-made hole on Earth. That title goes to the Kola Superdeep Borehole, on the Kola Peninsula in northwestern Russia. The project, which spanned from May 24, 1970, to just after the collapse of the Soviet Union, saw the deepest branch of the hole reach 11,034 meters (36,201 feet) below sea level.