First American woman to walk in space makes historic dive

James Marshall
June 10, 2020

Kathy Sullivan, a former NASA Space Shuttle astronaut and the frst American woman to walk in space back in 1984, just added another record to her illustrious career by becoming the first woman to visit Challenger Deep - the bottom of the Mariana Trench - during a daring expedition last weekend.

Sullivan and Victor L. Vescovo, a 54-year-old explorer and retired U.S. Navy officer funding the mission, remained at the Challenger Deep for about 90 minutes, capturing images of the trench from the LF some 200 miles southwest of Guam, before beginning their four-hour journey back to the surface.

Shortly after her dive, Sullivan spoke to astronauts on the International Space Station.

"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", said Sullivan. "Then we got to share that 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'.

Sullivan, 68, reached the deepest known spot in the ocean-known as the "Challenger Deep"-inside the Pacific Ocean's Mariana Trench, after completing a 35,810-foot dive on Sunday, according to EYOS Expeditions, which coordinated the mission's logistics". Sullivan had just returned from Challenger Deep, the deepest point of the ocean, almost 7 miles below the surface. She has now also conquered the deep after successfully descending to Challenger Deep, the lowest known point on Earth. The Challenger Deep is the lowest of the many seabed recesses that crisscross the globe. "More people have been to the moon than to the bottom of the ocean".

This new trip with Dr Sullivan is Vescovo's third to Challenger Deep, he tweeted on Sunday morning.

Expedition leader Rob McCallum said about the achievement: "It was wonderful 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".

In 1978, Sullivan joined NASA as part of the first group of USA astronauts to include women.

Upon returning to their ship, the pair called a group of astronauts aboard the International Space Station, around 254 miles above Earth.

A veteran of three space flights, Dr Sullivan was a mission specialist on STS-41G (October 5-13, 1984), STS-31 (April 24-29, 1990) and STS-45 (March 24-April 2, 1992). After three missions as an astronaut wherein she spent a total of 532 hours in space, Sullivan became the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) chief scientist and later served as the agency's administrator.

Kathy Sullivan is the first USA woman to walk in space during three missions for NASA.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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