Virgin Group Chairman, Sir Richard Branson, is well known for his high flying exploits: setting records for hot air ballooning, offering the world's first private space flights, running airlines on four separate continents. But Branson isn't just interested in getting as high as you can, he also wants to go as deep as you can.
Specifically, he's sending his recently launched Virgin Oceanic DeepFlight Challenger submarine nearly 36,000 feet down to the deepest part of the ocean - the Mariana Trench. Only two people have ever been there before - Jacques Piccard and Lt. Don Walsh in the Trieste in 1960.
There are pressures of over 1,000 atmospheres down there, which would squash a normal human or your standard submersible marine vessel instantly. The Trieste's windows cracked on its only voyage to the very bottom of the sea, which meant that Piccard and Walsh were only able to stay down there for 20 minutes.
Branson - who is handing over the rudder to experienced adventure traveler, pilot and sailor, Chris Welsh, for the initial deep dive in the single person sub - is planning on having his baby stay down there a little longer. The DeepFlight Challenger can stay underwater at the greatest of depths for up to 24 hours, thanks to the expert design of Hawkes Ocean Technologies, who have spared no expense in making the fish-like submarine from carbon fiber and titanium, with a quartz
He's also planning on being able to do more than they could in the Trieste. That bathyscaphe carried no scientific equipment, whereas Branson's winged vehicle is equipped with sonar locators, and accompanied by independent autonomous landers that can have bait,
motion-activated cameras and lights, and an impressive pump and filter water sampling assembly.
This is the first time that humans will ever be able to truly explore the ocean's depths, notching up yet another achievement from a man who has already done so much for modern exploration. Like they say, "It’s as if Lewis and Clark had a Cessna to make the first survey of America’s West."
Here is Virgin Oceanic's promotional video, for your viewing pleasure: