Our fantastic planet is an amazing place which the majority of us tend to take for granted. We could spend our entire lives learning about it and still be unaware of the treasures it holds.

Earth is actually smoother than a bowling ball, as the high mountains and deep ocean trenches only make up 1/5000th of the earth’s circumference. A solid iron ball 1,500 miles wide sits at the heart of our planet. The temperature at the core is 5500 degrees Centigrade, which is as hot as the surface of our sun. Although this iron ball is white hot, the pressure is so high that the iron cannot melt.

Despite their name, rare earth elements (with the exception of the radioactive promethium) are relatively plentiful in the Earth’s crust. However, because of their geochemical properties, rare earth elements are not often found concentrated as rare earth minerals in economically exploitable ore deposits. Lutetium, the least abundant rare earth element, is nearly 200 times more common in the earth’s crust than gold.  99% of Earth’s entire supply of gold unfortunately lies at its core. If it could be mined it would provide enough to coat the planet to a depth of 1.5 feet! However, even the deepest borehole drilled to date has only reached less than 1% of the distance to the centre of the earth, making it highly unlikely the gold will ever find its way to the surface.

As a journey to the centre of the earth is out of the question, man has turned his attention to the stars. The International Space Station is the most expensive object ever constructed, but the work done by the people living aboard is vital to any future manned spaceflights to distant planets.  Currently man can only survive in space for 2 minutes without protection, so research being carried out using the hardiest animal in existence might one day prove invaluable should mankind wish to populate other planets.