News FocusTechnology

New Drills Augur a Great Leap Downward

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Science  05 Feb 1999:
Vol. 283, Issue 5403, pp. 781-783
DOI: 10.1126/science.283.5403.781

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Ambitious projects to drill deeper than 10 kilometers or so always hit the same basic limits: heat, pressure, and money. At 9 kilometers down, temperature reaches 260°C or more, and the pressure can crush the metal casings that line drill holes. Moreover, many holes that technically could be drilled just cost too much. But using spin-offs of "Stars Wars" lasers and heat, researchers are now designing new ways to delve deep into Earth. Much of the impetus and funding to develop these new methods may soon come from NASA, which needs new tools to search for microbes below the surface of Mars and, later, below the icy crust of Jupiter's moon Europa.

  • * New York journalist Kevin Krajick is writing a book about diamond prospectors.