All top-secret government labs are either buried underground or hidden deep in a mountain. Everyone knows that, which is what makes the National Science Foundation’s recent announcement that it plans to convert the Homestake Mine, the deepest of its kind in the U.S., into a research facility, so surprising. How can it possibly be top secret if they’re telling everyone? The only answer, of course, is that they really are going to conduct legitimate research in astrophysics, biology and geology.
The Homestake Mine, located in Lead, South Dakota, extends 8,000 feet down into the Earth and has over 375 miles of tunnels. It already has a rich scientific history: In 1965, physicist Raymond Davis led a team that set up the world’s first underground solar neutrino detector in a cavern deep in the mine, and eventually earned the Nobel Prize for his work. Scientists at the new lab will also pursue astrophysics research, along with work on carbon sequestration, organisms living in extreme conditions and geophysics. Over the next 30 years, two laboratories will be constructed. One will extend down to 4,800 feet, and the other will lie all the way down at 7,400 feet. We’re guessing that’s where they’ll hide the aliens.—Gregory Mone