Photo: Enrique Alvarez via EYOS

NASA Astronaut Becomes First Woman to Reach Deepest Point in the Ocean

by Tim Wenger Jun 11, 2020

On October 11, 1984, astronaut Kathryn D. Sullivan spent three hours outside the Challenger spacecraft as it orbited the earth. The accomplishment made her the first American woman to walk in space. Sullivan, a career high-achiever who worked as a geologist prior to becoming an astronaut and is now an oceanographer, has taken her scientific exploration in the literal opposite direction — to the deepest depths of the earth’s ocean.

On Sunday, June 7, Sullivan descended seven miles to the Challenger Deep, the farthest known point of the Mariana Trench. Explorer Victor L. Vescovo also took part in the dive and financed the mission. Sullivan emerged as the first person to both walk in space and reach the deepest point of the ocean, and the first woman to reach the Challenger Deep.

“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 on Monday in a statement from EYOS Expeditions, the company behind the mission.

After reaching the surface, Sullivan called the International Space Station, 254 miles above the earth, to commemorate the accomplishment. The Mariana Trench is located in the Pacific Ocean about 200 miles east of Guam. Including Sullivan and Vescovo, Eight divers have reached the Challenger Deep.

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