FORMER ASTRONAUT VISITS BOTTOM OF THE OCEAN IN WORLD FIRST
On 7th June 2020, the eve of World Oceans Day, NASA astronaut and oceanographer Kathy Sullivan became the first woman to venture to Challenger Deep, the deepest point of the ocean, sitting at a depth of 10,928 meters (35,853 feet) in the western Pacific. Kathy was one of three intrepid explorers, or 'mission specialists' invited to venture to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, where Challenger Deep is located, by the Ring of Fire Expedition which was organized by bespoke adventure company EYOS Expeditions and undersea technology specialist Caladan Oceanic.
Sullivan, who became the first American woman to walk in space during a Space Shuttle Challenger mission in 1984, was the first of the three explorers to complete the 10-hour mission inside 'Limiting Factor' the name of the 11.5 tonne vehicle engineered by Triton Submarines, built to withstand the 2,200 metric tons of pressure amassed at the bottom of the ocean (seen below). It took roughly 4 hours to get down, an hour and a half on the seabed carrying out research initiatives and 4 hours back which she did with fellow scientist Victor Vescovo, the founder of Caladan Oceanic and another explorer - the first person to have visited both poles, the top of every continent and the deepest part of the ocean himself.
"Exploring is probing things we don't yet know or understand, and arriving at a deeper, better, wiser, more valuable insight about who we are, where we are, and how to live and thrive and survive" said Kathy. "I felt like I was flying over a moonscape as we went along the bottom. I think I was probably seeing in my mind's eye or remembering some of the Apollo images from those missions, flying over this austere landscape. But this amazing moonscape is at the very bottom of our ocean on my home planet."
"We wanted the first woman to dive the Challenger Deep to be someone who would really use the opportunity for the benefit of the ocean," said Rob McCallum, the expedition co-founder and leader. "Almost every dive we do is yielding something new to science, be it biological or geographical or geological. We're essentially a pathfinder into the last frontier of exploration on Earth."
Above photo taken from Kathy's twitter account