Rosetta spacecraft drilling on comet vs. geothermal drilling

Rosetta spacecraft (source: flickr/ DLR German Aerospace Center, creative commons)
Alexander Richter 13 Nov 2014

Space engineers manage to land spacecraft on a comet, 300 million miles away from Earth and plan to drill for samples, yet on Earth we still have the challenge to de-risk geothermal drilling down 4,000-6,000 meters?

“Holy Shit We Landed a Spacecraft on a Comet”, so reads the headline of an article in Wired magazine yesterday. Indeed these are rather cool news not only for the engineers involved. Can you imagine working on a dream like this for 18 years to then successfully land a spacecraft around 300 million miles away from Earth. Now, Rosetta is expected to “take pictures, analyze the chemical composition of the comet, drill for samples, and ….”

Drilling? 300 million miles away from Earth? Remotely? With a communication lag of 28 minutes?

Wow. Simply wow.

But wait a second. We are talking drilling. Now here is the question. If science manages to pull off something like this, how can it be that drilling on Earth, down 4,000 to 6,000 meters and finding geothermal resources is still considered the largest obstacle in geothermal development?

This for an essentially eternal energy source that could provide us with sufficient electricity and heat for most of this planet?

While not being an engineer, the scientific advancement in space are simply stunning, but so is the fact that we face problems here on Earth that we don´t seem to be able to tackle.

If we were able to take out the risk of drilling in geothermal development and essentially improve the success rate for finding geothermal resources, our industry would make such huge leap forward. So what would be needed to “land the right solution” – not on a comet – but down to the up to 4,000-6,000 meters we need to drill for geothermal energy?