On a remote peninsula in Russia, scientists spent decades drilling down towards the center of the Earth. They dug through endless sheets of rock, cementing their place in history books as they went. And at over 40,000 feet deep, they celebrated an unheard-of milestone: the deepest hole in the Earth. But after decades of digging, a history-making discovery forced them to shut down their machines for good.
Journey to the center of the Earth
Shockingly, some believe that our knowledge of space is now greater than our understanding of what exists beneath Earth’s surface. And while many people know about the space race that gripped the United States and the U.S.S.R. during the Cold War, few remember the equally fascinating battle to conquer our subterranean world.
Dig, dig, dig
Beginning in the late 1950s, competing teams of American and Soviet scientists began organizing elaborate experiments. They had the same goal: to dig as far into the Earth's crust as they possibly could. If you're wondering what exactly was so compelling about dirt and rocks, the answer lies miles and miles beneath the Earth's surface.
A mysterious inner layer
Though it may not hold the same mystique as the cosmos, the Earth's crust is not as boring as you'd think. Thought to stretch as far as 30 miles towards the center of our planet, this dense shell eventually gives way to the mantle – the mysterious inner layer that makes up a staggering 40 percent of our planet’s mass.
So, in 1958, the U.S. took the lead in the digging race with the launch of Project Mohole. Located near Guadalupe in Mexico, the operation saw a team of engineers drill through the bed of the Pacific Ocean to a depth of over 600 feet. However, eight years later their funding was cut, and Project Mohole was abandoned. The Americans never got to the mantle.