Branson's Virgin Oceanic Sub to explore ocean's depths
A new project, called Virgin Oceanic, headed up by entrepreneur and adventurer Richard Branson aims to explore new areas of the deep ocean using an 18-foot submersible.
Made from carbon fibre and titanium the Virgin Oceanic Sub has an operating depth of 37,000 feet and weighs in at 8,000lbs; the sub can carry just one person and will be able to deliver life support for 24 hours, gets a maximum speed of 3 knots and can dive at 350ft per minute.
Travelling on its mothership called Catamaran the Virgin Oceanic team will be able to embark on a 2-year journey of the Earth's five deepest oceans.
"The first dive will be to the deepest place on the planet: the bottom of the Mariana Trench - 11 kilometers (7 miles) straight down," reads the Virgin Oceanic website. "The second dive - to the bottom of the Puerto Rico Trench - will be piloted by Sir Richard Branson. This trench is the deepest spot in the Atlantic Ocean at over 8 kilometers (more than 5 miles)."
Although the bottom of the Mariana Trench has been seen with human eyes previously - Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard piloted the bathyscaphe, Trieste in 1960 - the key improvement to the old vehicle is the way in which it will allow the pilots to explore the depths. The Virgin Oceanic Sub will allow for exploration of up to 7 miles whilst at its deepest point.
Other dives include visits to the Indian Ocean's Diamantina, the Sandwich Trench in the Southern Ocean and the Arctic Ocean's Molloy Deep.
As with the Virgin Galactic space programme Branson hopes that a similar scheme will will be run which will allow members of the public to visit the ocean's depths.
Space or deep-sea, which one would you go for?