Sir Richard Branson pushes the envelope like no other. Having already launched a successful commercial venture into space with Virgin Galactic, Branson aims to explore the deepest points in each of the world's five oceans with Virgin Oceanic.
The eight-foot long craft, made of carbon fiber and titanium, has stubby wings and a cockpit. It can cruise for about 6.2 miles and can stay submerged without help for 24 hours. It has been built to withstand the extreme pressure found 36,000 feet below the surface, which is 1,500 times the pressure exerted on an airplane.
Branson will be the back-up pilot on the first attempt, and will take turns to pilot the snub-nosed submersible with U.S sailor and explorer Chris Welsh for five dives planned over a two-year period. On their journeys to the bottom of the sea, Branson and Welsh will spend up to 12 hours in complete darkness and freezing cold in the submarine's tiny cockpit.
“With space long ago reached by man, and commercial space flight tantalizingly close, the last great challenge for humans is to reach and explore the depths of our planet's oceans,” says Branson. “There are enormous amounts of the oceans that have not been explored. More men have been to the moon than have been down further than 20,000 feet.”