Kathy Sullivan, first US woman to walk in space, dives to Earth’s lowest point

Kathy Sullivan, who became the first American woman to walk in space in 1984, has reached a new low – becoming the first woman to reach Challenger Deep, the lowest known point on Earth, according to reports.

Kathryn Sullivan in 2014
Kathryn Sullivan in 2014FilmMagic

The former astronaut, who made history with her Oct. 11, 1984, spacewalk, made her groundbreaking voyage to the bottom of the western Pacific Ocean, reaching a crushing depth of almost 36,000 feet, about 6.8 miles, in a submersible named Limited Factor, The Times of the UK reported.

“Challenger Deep — and back!” Sullivan wrote on Facebook after completing the historic dive on Saturday. “10,915 m[eters] on our gauges (35,810 ft).”

Sullivan, 68, and the sub’s chief pilot, Victor Vescovo, 54, a retired US Navy officer, returned safely to the expedition ship DSSV Pressure Drop and celebrated their feat by calling the International Space Station.

“As a hybrid oceanographer and astronaut this was 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.

She is only the eighth person to visit the Challenger Deep, a trench in the abyss within the Mariana Trench that is roughly a mile deeper than Mount Everest is tall.

Part of the hadal zone — named after the domain of Hades, the underworld in Greek mythology — the Challenger Deep is a pitch-black place of bone-chilling temperatures and water pressure equivalent to 100 elephants standing on a person’s head.

It was first reached by Swiss oceanographer Jacques Piccard and US Navy Lt. Don Walsh in 1960.

In 2012, “Titanic” director and underwater explorer James Cameron visited the site aboard the Deepsea Challenger.

The dive with Limiting Factor, made by Triton Submarines of Florida, was carried out in collaboration with Eyos Expeditions and Caladan Oceanic.

“This is the most exclusive destination on Earth. More people have been to the moon than to the bottom of the ocean,” Rob McCallum of Eyos Expeditions said before the voyage, The Times reported.

In 1984, Sullivan made her spacewalk outside the space shuttle Challenger.

Both the orbiter and Pacific trench were named after the HMS Challenger, the Royal Navy ship that in 1875 was the first to record the depth of what would later be known as Challenger Deep, according to collectspace.com.


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