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Published 1985 | Published
Book Section - Chapter Open

The Earth's Interior: A New Frontier and a New Challenge for Earth Scientists


In this era of space exploration, deep expeditions to the ocean bottom and far viewing telescopes, the Earth's interior has emerged as one of the most challenging frontier areas for scientific investigation. Exploration of the crust, by seismic and other means, is well underway but our view of the underlying mantle and core is fuzzy. Plate tectonic theory has revolutionized Earth Science but we still do not understand the driving mechanism or why global processes change with time. The origins of the magnetic field, volcanism, earthquakes, mineral resources and mountain building processes are related to processes in the deep interior. Planetary exploration has opened up the new science of comparative planetology and yet, the most fundamental questions regarding the origin, evolution and composition of the Earth are unresolved because of our ignorance of the characteristics of most of our planet, the interior. The time is now ripe to make an integrated study of the Earth as a Planet or, in space age jargon, to undertake a mission to Planet Earth. There are several recent developments which make this timely.

Additional Information

© 1985 Cambridge University Press. Research described in the EOS excerpt was supported by National Science Foundation grant EAR81-15236 and National Aeronautics and Space Administration contract NSG-7610. Contribution number 4039, Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences, California Institute of Technology, California 91125, copyright remains with the American Geophysical Union. Permission to include the Executive Summary of the IRIS proposal was graciously granted by IRIS. The author acknowledges thoughts on the low order geoid in a paper submitted to NATURE by B. Hager, R. Clayton, M. Richards, and A. Dziewonski.

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