First American Woman to Walk in Space Reaches Deepest Spot in the Ocean

The geologist and former astronaut Kathy Sullivan, 68, is now also the first woman to reach the deepest spot on earth – challenger deep which is about about seven miles below the ocean’s surface.

She was the first American woman to walk in space and now has set another record to  become the first woman and the 8th person in the history  to reach the deepest known spot in the ocean on Sunday 7th June.

Kathryn Dwyer Sullivan (born October 3, 1951) is an American geologist and a former NASA astronaut. A crew member on three Space Shuttle missions, she was the first American woman to walk in space on October 11, 1984. She was Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 

Dr.sullivan always had a longing fascination for oceans and has participated in several oceanographic expeditions that studied the floors of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

In 1988, Sullivan joined the U.S. Naval Reserve as an oceanography officer, retiring with the rank of captain in 2006. Sullivan joined NASA in 1978 and was part of the first astronaut groups to include women.

Sullivan served as Payload Commander on STS-45, the first Spacelab mission dedicated to NASA’s Mission to Planet Earth. During this nine-day mission the crew through constant experiments obtained a vast array of detailed measurements of atmospheric chemical and physical properties, which will contribute significantly to improving our understanding of our climate and atmosphere.

After leaving NASA, Sullivan served as chief scientist of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Sullivan became Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Acting NOAA Administrator on February 28, 2013, following the resignation of Jane Lubchenco. President Obama nominated Sullivan to serve as the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator on August 1, 2013 and she was confirmed by the Senate on March 6, 2014.

The challenges faced while getting to the challenger deep

Challenger Deep — the deepest point in the Mariana Trench, which is itself the deepest part of the ocean — is therefore the deepest point on Earth, more than 36,000 feet below the ocean’s surface. For scale, if Mount Everest, the highest point on Earth, were dropped into Challenger Deep, its summit would still not breach the surface

Dr. Sullivan and Victor L. Vescovo, an explorer funding the mission, spent about an hour and a half at their destination, nearly seven miles down in a muddy depression in the Mariana Trench, which is about 200 miles southwest of Guam.

It took four hours to descend to the crushing depth of 35,810 feet (10,941 metres). They spent 1 1/2 hours on the ocean floor, then another four hours ascending. At those depths, the water is perpetually dark and barely above freezing. The pressure is a skull-crushing 8 tons per square inch – about 1,000 times the pressure at sea level.

After capturing images from the Limiting Factor, a specially designed deep-sea research submersible, they began the roughly four-hour ascent. Upon returning to their ship, the pair called a group of astronauts aboard the International Space Station, around 254 miles above earth.

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

Dr. Sullivan said in a statement released by EYOS Expeditions on Monday.

What interests scientists in deep ocean areas ?

“Ocean exploration, however, is not randomly wandering in hopes of finding something new. It is disciplined and organized and includes rigorous observations and documentation of biological, chemical, physical, geological, and archaeological aspects of the ocean,” the NOAA website says.

Further, finding out more about the deep ocean areas can potentially reveal new sources for medical drugs, food, energy resources and other products. Significantly, information from the deep oceans can also help to predict earthquakes and tsunamis, and help us understand how we are affecting and getting affected by the Earth’s environment.

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