Former astronaut Kathy Sullivan returned Monday from Challenger Deep, the deepest known point on Earth at about 35,853 feet under the Western Pacific Ocean.
Dr. Kathy Sullivan and Victor Vescovo after their dive to Challenger Deep. Enrique Alvarez / EYOS Expeditions
By Doha Madani
Kathy Sullivan, America’s first female spacewalker, also became the first woman to reach the deepest known point of the ocean.
Sullivan dove to the bottom of the Challenger Deep and safely returned in her submersible vessel on Monday, according to EYOS Expeditions, the company that operated her expedition. She is now the eighth person to reach the depth, the lowest point in the Marianas Trench, which is about 35,853 feet under the Western Pacific Ocean surface.
A call was made between Sullivan’s vessel at the bottom of the ocean and astronauts aboard the International Space Station. The call was an homage to Sullivan’s other historic adventure, when she became the first American woman to walk in space in 1984.
“As a hybrid oceanographer and astronaut this was an extraordinary day, a once in a lifetime day, seeing the moonscape of the Challenger Deep and then comparing notes with my colleagues on the ISS about our remarkable reusable inner-space outer-spacecraft,” Sullivan said in a press release.
Expedition leader Rob McCallum said it was amazing to set up the call between the two “spacecrafts.”
“Two groups of humans using cutting edge technology to explore the outer edges of our world,” McCallum said. “It highlighted the vast span of human endeavor while at the same time linking us close together as fellow explorers.”
The first two people to reach the Challenger Deep, located in the south end of the Mariana Trench about 190 miles southwest of Guam, were Don Walsh and Jacques Picard in 1960.
Victor Vescovo reached the bottom last year as part of an expedition team that made five dives in the Mariana Trench over the course of a week. Vescovo described the trench as “very peaceful” in an interview with Live Science last year.
“Honestly, toward the end, I simply turned the thrusters off, leaned back in the cockpit and enjoyed a tuna fish sandwich while I very slowly drifted just above the bottom of the deepest place on Earth, enjoying the view and appreciating what the team had done technically,” Vescovo said.
“Avatar” and “Titanic” filmmaker James Cameron broke the record for deepest solo dive in 2012 when he became the first person to reach the Challenger Deep alone.
Disclosure: Smita Nair Jain has nothing to disclose. She doesn’t own stock in any publicly traded companies and does not hold investments in the technology companies. She has equivalent of the American 401(k) plan in India that is automatically managed. (Updated: June 16, 2020)
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