Former NASA astronaut Kathy Sullivan becomes first person to travel to space and ocean’s deepest point – ABC News

Posted: June 9, 2020 at 11:47 pm

Former NASA astronaut Kathy Sullivan has become the first person to both go to space and plumb the depths of the ocean, after making the perilous journey down to the deepest point on Earth.

Challenger Deep is a point about 11 kilometres beneath the surface of the water in the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean.

Only eight people have ever reached Challenger Deep and Dr Sullivan, who is also a leading oceanographer, became the first woman to do so when she made the journey alongside Victor Vescovo, who piloted submarine Limiting Factor.

Dr Sullivan was the first American woman to walk in space and flew three shuttle missions in the 1980s and 1990s before being inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2004.

"As a hybrid oceanographer and astronaut this was an extraordinary day, a once-in-a-lifetime day," the 68-year-old said.

"Seeing the moonscape of the Challenger Deep and then comparing notes with my colleagues on the ISS about our remarkable reusable inner-space, outer-space craft."

After the journey to the ocean floor, the crew of the submersible contacted the International Space Station (ISS), which was in low Earth orbit at an altitude of about 408 kilometres.

Rob McCallum from EYOS Expeditions, which coordinated the mission, said "it was amazing to set up a conversation between two spacecraft" one in outer space and one in "inner space".

"Two groups of humans using cutting-edge technology to explore the outer edges of our world," he said.

"It highlighted the vast span of human endeavour while at the same time linking us close together as fellow explorers."

Dr Sullivan became an astronaut with NASA in 1979 and held a number of positions, taking part in shuttle missions in 1984, 1990 and 1992 before leaving the agency in 1993.

She left because she had received a presidential appointment to become chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is effectively NASA but focusing on the ocean.

In 2014, she was named under-secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere in the US, but Mr Vescovo tweeted that he "pulled her out of retirement" for the journey.

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Former NASA astronaut Kathy Sullivan becomes first person to travel to space and ocean's deepest point - ABC News

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