Richard Branson wants to own your imagination. He’s flying you to space, he’s flying you cross country, and now he’s taking you (in a flying sub) under the sea.
Starting in 2011 and continuing into 2012 the Virgin Oceanic submersible will be running missions to to deepest ocean trenches. With a continuing mission to, “[take] the next step in human exploration. This time, the voyage is to the last frontiers of our own Blue Planet.”
As less than 3% of the sea floor has been explored Virgin Oceanic will carry a human pilot to the bottom of the
“Arctic, Southern and Indian Oceans… The opportunities to see and learn from these dives are monumental.”
During the first dive the submersible, piloted by Chris Welsh, will visit the deepest point on earth — Mariana Trench at 11 kilometers (7 mi) straight down — and then “fly” along the bottom of the known planet. The second dive will visit the bottom of the Puerto Rican trench, piloted by Sir Richard Branson himself (the deepest spot in the Atlantic Ocean @ 8Km or more than 5 miles).
Based on the promises in the promotional material, this adventure will be equal to those promised by Virgin Galactic. These parts of the ocean floor have never been explored.
The sub is launched from Branson’s catamaran – Cheyenne – a 125 foot tall monster of a boat. It is, in fact, taller than the Statue of Liberty in New York City harbor. From there the submarine can descend to the bottom of the known ocean. The sub is built of titanium and carbon fibre making it light and strong. “The pressure at the bottom of the deepest trench is over 1,000 atmospheres – the quartz dome alone is under 13 million pounds of pressure, the weight of three space shuttles.” So the vehicle has been specifically (and meticulously) designed to handle the extreme pressures found at the bottom of the worlds deepest oceans. “It is the only piloted craft in existence that has ‘full ocean depth’ capability.”