Former astronaut becomes first person to have been in space and at full ocean depth

Dr Kathryn Sullivan became the first American woman to walk in space in 1983

Louise Hall
Monday 08 June 2020 20:55
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Dr Kathryn Sullivan became the first human to have been in space and at full ocean depth
Dr Kathryn Sullivan became the first human to have been in space and at full ocean depth

A former NASA astronaut has become the first woman to reach the deepest point in the ocean, 37 years after she became the first American woman to walk in space.

Dr Kathyrn Sullivan, 68, dove to Challenger Deep alongside pilot Victor Vescovo which is the lowest known location on the planet, according to EYOS Expeditions.

The Challenger Deep is characterised by extreme darkness, immense pressures and low temperatures. Only simple microorganisms can survive in its environment.

Dr Sullivan is the eighth person in the world to have made the journey with the first two being Don Walsh and Jacques Picard in 1960.

Notably, Dr Sullivan has also become the first human to have been in space and at full ocean depth of nearly seven miles.

“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 making the call between the ISS and DSSV Pressure Drop,” Dr Sullivan said.

Dr Sullivan made the journey in the submersible DSV Limiting Factor (LF) the first vehicle in history that has repeatedly gone to the deepest point in the ocean.

EYOS Expeditions coordinated a call between the International Space Station and the DSSV Pressure Drop, the mothership of the LF in a world first, after the ship had returned from its history-making full ocean depth dive in the Challenger Deep.

Expedition leader Rob McCallum said, “It was amazing to set up a conversation between two ’spacecraft’; one operating as a platform for research in outer space, the other an exploration vehicle for ‘inner space’. Two groups of humans using cutting edge technology to explore the outer edges of our world. It highlighted the vast span of human endeavour while at the same time linking us close together as fellow explorers. We are well used to our clients being ambitious in their quest to explore… but this was a new ‘first’.”

Pilot Mr Vescovo was previously the fourth person in history to reach Challenger Deep as part of his Five Deeps expedition; over the course of seven days, his team made five dives in the Mariana Trench.

“We made some more history today… and then got to share the experience with kindred spirits in the ISS. 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," Mr Vescovo said.

Dr Sullivan is a veteran of three space shuttle flights and became the first American woman to walk in space in 1983.

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