There are so many technical difficulties that can be encountered if one decided to drill to the center of the earth. Thinking of the characteristic of the earth, the activity seems to be next to impossible. So far, the deepest into the earth human has ever gone is 7.6 miles which is equivalent 0.2% of the earth’s distance to the core ( Mussett, Alan, and Aftab 12). It is not because humans do not want to go deeper considering the scientific and commercial gains that would come along, but it is because of the difficulty associated with it. Drilling to the core of the earth is no doubt a hard mission.
One technical difficulty would be cutting through the hard rocks. The drilling team will be forced to drill through miles of hard rocks. This may erode the drill slowly until its efficiency reduces. The teams will be required to be replacing the drilling equipment time by time as they drill deeper (FoxNews.com, 1). For replacement, the rock cuttings have to be removed from the hole which may be very difficult. Sometimes one might run into some drilling problems like caving in sticking, junk sticking, cementing sticking, knot sticking and key slot sticking. The process is extremely involving and requires consistency and patience. The drilling component is very heavy that it needs a strong foundation. It sounds simple, but the process is very expensive that it may cause financial ruin.
The earth’s crust contains radioactive materials like uranium and potassium and their decay products. Exposure to gasses and toxics produced from these radioactive materials is unsafe to the health of humans. It might present difficult for drilling equipment to handle this and it may be hazardous (Plummer 88). Drilling can give rise to significance exposures which will need to be controlled and regulated. Consideration may include personal air monitoring and providing protective equipment to people as well a safe decontaminating procedure and safe disposal of the radioactive materials. Giving an example of oil and gas companies that have experienced the activities, there has not been any efficient consistency and control of the activities. This means that toxic components produced by radioactive materials have been released into the earth atmosphere and already accounts for average person’s annual radiation dose. Going deeper into the earth through drilling exposes a bigger risk to human’s health. Unless these activities are controlled, then it would not be possible to drill beyond a certain level to the earth’s interior.
Another difficulty is the heat generated by the friction between the drill and the rocks which can cause incidences of fire hence a cooling source needed (Plait 56). An advanced cooling source that can adjust and sustain heat at higher levels may be difficult to obtain. The heat may be generated to an extreme level that it can even melt equipment. Moreover, heat generated by friction is coupled by the heat found in the interior of the earth which increases at an increasing rate as one journey towards the center. Heat increases by 25 Celsius per kilometer in the outer shell of the planets, and as one head down, the temperatures go beyond 250 Celsius and even worse, the earth’s ’ inner core is said to have temperatures of around 6000 Kelvin (Antony 1). This means the efficiency of the drill can be maintained if the materials used have high boiling points like diamond and tungsten carbide. The heat though can pass their limits and make the drill cease to function beyond a certain level.
Most of the rocks in the earth’s crust have pressured fluids in aperture spaces between particles, and those fluid streams up the borehole. The technical team has to draw out these fluids together with the rock cuttings to prevent them from interfering with the drilling efficiency. It may reach a point where the rate at which the fluid is emitted is higher than the rate at which it is drawn out. This means the fluid will eventually fill the borehole and the team may be required to strategize a better way to make further drilling possible. In any way, if the team manages to reach the mantle, the weight of the earth’s crust exerts a lot of pressure on it. Also, the earthquake wavelengths and the radioactive materials add more pressure among many other activities inside the earth that we are probably not aware. Imagining the pressure at millions of atmosphere inside the earth, I would say creating a hole paves the way for pressure to be released, and it would be so high making a destructive and brutal explosive volcano. At very high level, the pressures cannot be contained by gravity, and the mantle may decompress finding its way up the hole before the pressure drops. Immediately the hole reaches the mantle with very high pressure, the reaction would be a violent release of this pressure like a super volcano. It is can, therefore, be risky to the technical team and the neighboring people. More so, the eruption can be so strong to the extent of collapsing the wall even if it is built by tungsten carbide. If the wall collapses further drilling becomes impossible.
Just like the perfect shape of an egg from our eyes judgment, the earth can be judged to be perfect on the inside just like the outside appearance. The truth is, an egg has bumps which might interfere if one decided to balance it. Most people say that the perfect time to balance an egg is at the exact time of the equinox. However standing an egg entirely depends on the its characteristics including how bumpy it is as well as how steady the hand of the person balancing it is (Plait 14). Likewise getting a perfect position that drills directly to the center of the earth depends on the measurement and position of the technical team and the bumps encountered in the drilling process. This is a problem to the technical team drilling to the center of the earth because measurement may have errors and if the drill encounters bumps, it might be inclined and direct the team away from the earth’s center. It may not be a hundred percent guarantee that the team will ever pass the center and may need many trials to correct mistakes made or unavoidable encounters of the process. If trials happen to be many, it means that a lot of money will be used and the expedition will consume a lot of time. This can be compared with the many trials scientists have tried to get to the moon, the mass and other planets in the universe without first-time success. The difference is, for the drilling exploration, trials may be more and without any success.
Lastly, let us say that that hole down to the center of the earth existed. Humans would still be unable to get to the center. This is because there are no machines that can take humans there. Secondly, falling or jumping straight down the earth is even more difficult than it sounds. After a mile of falling one would probably crash on the side of the hole and never make it. Also, nearing the core, the mass above cancels the attraction below meaning gravitational pull weaken towards the center. At a certain point, one will be pulled from all direction by gravitation and become weightless and then just float. There would be no other way to reach the center and to be more real no live being can get near the center.
Drilling a hole to the center of the earth is not possible. Even if the drill was made by materials with high boiling points like a diamond, there is no way the hole would be prevented from collapsing due to the high pressures and temperatures and nothing could make the wall strong enough to sustain itself. It is not possible to drill to the center with the existing technology. The several expeditions that have been undertaken to drill the earth’s interior have given proof that the mission is not easy and may not be possible. Not even one has been able to drill to the center of the earth’s crust leave alone reaching the mantle. There is no doubt that what might be awaiting the drilling team is extremely hazardous and risky. The thought of the possibilities of dangerous encounters can even be a good reason to stop this kind of exploration.
Antony Sebastian. To the core: How can we travel to the center of the Earth? Extremetech,(2014).Retrived from https://www.extremetech.com/extreme/187291-to-the-core-how-can-we-travel-to-the-center-of-the-earth
FoxNews.com. Expedition to drill to center of Earth ends without success. (2016). Retrieved from: http://www.foxnews.com/science/2016/02/01/expedition-to-drill-to-center-earth-ends-without-success.html on date 24/3/2017
Mussett, Alan E., and M. Aftab Khan. Looking into the Earth: an Introduction to Geological Geophysics. Cambridge University Press, 2000.
Plait, Philip C. Bad Astronomy: Misconceptions and Misuses Revealed, from Astrology to the Moon Landing ‘Hoax’. New York: Wiley, 2002. Internet resource.
Plummer, Charles C, and David McGeary. Physical Geology: With Interactive Plate Tectonics Cd-Rom. Dubuque, IA: WCB, WM. C. Brown Publishers, 1996. Print.