She Made History in Space, and Now in the Ocean

Kathy Sullivan becomes first woman to reach Challenger Deep
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 9, 2020 1:47 AM CDT

(Newser) – On Oct. 11, 1984, astronaut Kathy Sullivan became the first American woman to walk in space. On Sunday, she became the first woman to reach the deepest known point in the ocean—and the first person ever to have both walked in space and been 35,810 feet below the surface of the water, the New York Times reports. Sullivan, 68, spent about an hour and a half capturing images at Challenger Deep after descending to the spot 6.8 miles down in the Mariana Trench, about 200 miles southwest of Guam, in a deep-sea research submersible called the Limiting Factor—the only submarine currently able to reach Challenger Deep. Their ascent back to the surface took four hours. Sullivan is only the eighth person ever to reach Challenger Deep, the Daily Beast reports.

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Sullivan, an oceanographer as well as an astronaut, became the administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration after joining NASA in 1978 as part of the first group of US astronauts that included women. After emerging from the depths Sunday, she and Victor L. Vescovo, the explorer funding the mission, called astronauts aboard 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 comparing notes with my colleagues on the ISS about our remarkable reusable inner-space outer-spacecraft," Sullivan said in a statement released by EYOS Expeditions, which coordinated the mission logistics. On Twitter, Vescovo congratulated Sullivan on being "the first woman to the bottom of the ocean." (Read more Challenger Deep stories.)

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