After 20 years of drilling, Russian scientists have finally punched a hole in the bottom of the planet to reach the ancient lake 4km beneath Antarctica.
The scientists had been radio-silent for about a week, which prompted some concern, but is generally the price of doing business in Antarctica. More pressing was the concern that the frigid Antarctic winter would move in and postpone the breach until next drilling season, which only lasts a couple months most times.
Now that drilling has reached the lake, enough of the kerosene that keeps the 4km hole from freezing has been extracted for the water to naturally rise a bit up the hole. That water will then be left to freeze over the winter and extracted when scientists return next season. This ice plug method will allow scientists to analyse Vostok's water without risking contaminating the lake.
Reaching the undisturbed lake after millions of years won't just show scientists how life might have looked millions of years ago, or presently under different conditions, but how life might plausibly exist on distant planets and moons. Moons of Jupiter and Saturn, and possibly Mars itself, are thought to conceal similar lakes beneath their icy surfaces.
Yes, the It Came from Beneath jokes or Megatron fantasies are apt and fun and fair, but to echo the scientists' hopes in the lead-up to the breach, let's just hope they find something down there. Exploring the last frontiers of our little blue planet sort of loses its luster if there's nothing out there to find. [FOX via Popular Science]