China Launches Massive Ship to Drill Into Earth’s Mantle

China has built an enormous ocean drilling vessel called the Mengxiang to achieve humanity’s first-ever excavation into the Earth’s upper mantle. The ambitious mission could uncover clues about our planet’s inner workings and evolution.

An Engineering Marvel

The supersized Mengxiang can withstand fierce storms while drilling 11,000 meters beneath the seafloor thanks to:

  • Cargo capacity of 33,000 tonnes
  • Length of 179 meters
  • Specially designed stabilization

It can traverse 15,000 nautical miles over 120 days between port calls.

Destination: The Mantle

The Mengxiang aims to breach the Mohorovičić discontinuity (Moho) about 7 km down. This boundary separates the crust from the mantle.

No prior missions have sampled the mantle, home to unique rock composition and extreme pressures and temperatures.

Past efforts since the 1960s have drilled the oceanic crust, discovering invaluable knowledge. But the mantle has remained elusive.

Scientific Potential

Reaching the mantle could provide insights on:

  • Plate tectonics
  • Crust formation and magnetism
  • Deep sea organisms
  • Energy sources

Some even speculate seemingly habitable environments exist, though proof remains absent.

Hurdles Ahead

While recent Mengxiang tests focused on propulsion, challenges persist regarding drilling feasibility. Sophisticated techniques will be needed to bore through ultra-hot lower crust without failure.



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