Former NASA astronaut Kathy Sullivan made history when she became the first American woman to walk in space back in 1984. As if the feat is not enough, she just added another record to her career by becoming the first woman to visit the Earth's deepest point, known as Challenger Deep.
Having achieved both feats, Sullivan is now the only human to have ever been up in space and down below at maximum ocean depth.
Sullivan boarded the DSSV Pressure Drop, the Caladan Oceanic's flagship support sea vessel, en route to the coast of Guam on the weekend. On June 6, the astronaut and Caladan's CEO Victor Vescovo boarded the Limiting Factor submersible and dropped to the bottom of the Mariana Trench at 35,810 feet.
Only three other dives have reached Challenger Deep -- first in 1960 by oceanographer Jacques Piccard and United States Navy officer Don Walsh. In 2012, James Cameron, director of box office films Titanic and Avatar, boarded the Deepsea Challenger to reach the bottom of the Mariana Trench. The third expedition was made by Vescovo in 2019, also aboard Limiting Factor, which happens to be the only vehicle in the world able to dive more than 10.000 meters deep.
Once back up to the surface, Sullivan made a phone call to astronauts aboard the International Space Station to share her achievement.
"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," wrote Sullivan in a statement.
The Limiting Factor is actually the first commercially-certified full-ocean-depth DSV (deep submergence vehicle). Vescovo financed the design and supervised the construction, and also acted as Sullivan's pilot for the deep-sea expedition.
Caladan Oceanic's team planned a total of eight dives to study new species of deep-sea marine life, observe volcanic vents, and map pools for the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone for the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Sullivan started her career as one of the first women inducted into NASA's astronaut corps in the late 1970s. She eventually became the first American female to perform a spacewalk. The craft that ferried Sullivan to her historic space flight was the Space Shuttle Challenger.
During her 15-year NASA career, she flew on three Space Shuttle missions, including the flight that deployed the Hubble Space Telescope in 1990.