NASA Wants To Drill Into Yellowstone Supervolcano In Order To Save The Planet

When Sarah Palin said 'drill, baby, drill' I don't think this is what she had in mind. Bucchi Francesco/Shutterstock

The hypothetical drill won’t actually plunge into the magma itself; that would risk causing a massive depressurization event that might even set the monster off. It’ll sit a short distance above the chamber – at around a depth of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) – where hydrothermal fluids heated by the magma course their way to the surface.

These fluids actually rob the magma of around 60 to 70 percent of the magma’s thermal signature already. NASA will simply add more water, under extremely high pressures, in order to ramp up this cooling process.

In order not to accidentally fracture the surrounding rock and shatter the roof of the magma chamber, NASA suggests that it might be a better idea to drill underneath the magma chamber.

If this plan was ever approved of, it would cost around $3.5 billion. Pricey, but if the result is saving the planet, then we’d argue that’s a fair price to pay. It’s also 0.6 percent of the annual budget for the US Armed Forces, so there’s that.

NASA has pointed out, however, that their plan essentially pays for itself over time. All that excess heat has to go somewhere, so why not siphon it off and use it to power some of America’s electrical grid?

Is the pay-off worth the risks? MKolba/Shutterstock

Either way, this story has a tinge of melancholy to it. Cooling the chamber so that it becomes mostly uneruptible would take thousands of years, which means that those that started the project would never know if their mission succeeded.

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