Kathryn Sullivan, a former NASA astronaut, has gone where no woman has ever gone before – the lowest point on Earth.
The 68-year-old 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.
She took on the Challenger Deep expedition with Caladan Oceanic pilot Victor Vescovo and the pair managed to reach 35,000 feet under the surface of the water.
Sullivan reached the bottom of the ocean in an underwater craft called ‘Limiting Factor’ while maintaining constant communication with the International Space Station.
The Challenger Deep, known as the lowest point in the Mariana Trench, is characterised by extreme high and low pressures and darkness. According to experts, the only living things that can survive in its environment are simple micro-organisms.
Sullivan is the first woman and the eight-person to have made the journey. The first voyage was made by Don Walsh and Jacques Picard back in 1960.
“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,” said Sullivan after completing the lengthy dive.
Vescovo said it was a pleasure to have Sullivan alongside him as an oceanographer.
“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,” said Vescovo.
In her illustrious career, Sullivan has participated in several oceanographic expeditions, some of which studied the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
She did her Ph.D. in Geology from Dalhousie University and joined the US Naval Reserve as an oceanography officer before switching to NASA.