Kathy Sullivan, America's first woman spacewalker, reaches ocean's deepest point
America's first woman spacewalker has now become the first-ever woman to reach the deepest known point in our planet's oceans. Kathy Sullivan, a former astronaut and oceanographer, completed her full deep-sea dive last weekend, scripting her name as the only person in the history to nail both the dangerous tasks and return home safely. Here's more about her latest milestone.
On Sunday, June 7, Sullivan embarked on a dive to the Challenger Deep, a point nearly 36,000-feet below the surface of the Pacific Ocean within the Mariana Trench - about 320 kilometers southwest of Guam. The location is believed to be the deepest known region in our oceans, the lowest of the many seabed recesses present around the globe.
According to EYOS Expeditions, the company coordinating the mission, Sullivan is the 8th person in the world to complete the daunting full ocean-depth dive. The 68-year-old started the journey co-piloting a specially-designed submersible called the Limiting Factor with Victor Vescovo, a millionaire explorer funding the mission. They both reached their destination, a muddy depression, without any hiccups, and spent an hour-and-a-half there capturing images.
After completing the dive, the duo began the ascent to reach the surface, which took 4 hours to complete. Upon reaching their ship, Sullivan and Vescovo called astronauts aboard the International Space Station and shared their experience. Vescovo said, "It was a pleasure to have Kathy along both as an oceanographer during the dive, and then as an astronaut to talk to the ISS."
"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 after her dive.
Sullivan, now a former astronaut, had joined NASA in 1978 and became one of the first women to reach space as part of the agency's sixth Space Shuttle Challenger flight. Then, on October 11, 1984, she ventured out in the darkness of space to carry out a nearly three-and-a-half-hour long spacewalk - the first ever to be executed out by an American woman.
Interestingly, the two environments explored by Sullivan operate at completely opposite extremes. On one hand, space is a vacuum with no pressure at all, while on the other, the pressure at Challenger Deep is skull-crushing. Sullivan said the pressure at the bottom is 1,000 times the pressure at sea level and equivalent to having 291 jumbo jets pressing down on Limiting Factor's hatch.