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BREAKTHROUGH Scientists Bore Into Antarctic Lake Torsten Blackwood, AFP / Getty Images

Scientists Bore Into Antarctic Lake

In the coldest spot on the planet, Russian scientists on Wednesday drilled into an ancient lake in Antarctica located 12,366 feet below the planet’s icy surface. Drilling through the miles of ice took an entire decade, causing mission leader Valery Lukin to liken the breakthrough to the first space flight—“by technological complexity, by importance, by uniqueness.” Lake Vostok, as it is named, is one of 280 Antarctic lakes that have been sealed under miles of ice for 15 to 34 million years. Clues suggest there may have been life in the lakes, which would aid the search for life on Jupiter's icy moons. Scientists had been racing against the clock to reach the lake by the end of the Antarctic summer, and plan to return next year to begin the search for another lake.

February 8, 2012 1:02 PM