News 88.9 KNPR
Classical 89.7 KCNV

member station


First U.S. Woman To Walk In Space Dives To Deepest Point In The Ocean


Kathy Sullivan and pilot Victor Vescovo, seen after their dive to Challenger Deep.
Enrique Alvarez, Courtesy of

Kathy Sullivan and pilot Victor Vescovo, seen after their dive to Challenger Deep.

Kathy Sullivan has seen her share of highs and lows.

Sullivan, the first U.S. woman to walk in space, a veteran of three shuttle missions and an enshrined member of the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, took a perilous journey downward this week.

She became the first woman to reach Challenger Deep, the deepest known point on Earth, in the South Pacific.

On Monday, shortly after completing the expedition in their submersible, Sullivan and her fellow diver Victor Vescovo — who was already one of of just a handful of people in the world to reach Challenger Deep — coordinated a call with the International Space Station.

"As a hybrid oceanographer and astronaut this was an extraordinary day, a once in a lifetime day," she said in a statement released by EYOS Expeditions, which supported the expedition.

You may remember the name of the site — which rests nearly seven miles beneath the water's surface, in the Mariana Trench near Guam — from director James Cameron's solo dive in 2012. At the time, Cameron's was the first manned expedition to the area in more than half a century.

Support comes from

Since then, Vescovo has piloted several different missions to the depths of the Challenger Deep. All told, EYOS Expeditions said that just seven people had reached the point before Sullivan, all of whom were men.

Sullivan, who became an astronaut in 1979, made history in 1984 as the first woman to walk in space. She logged more than 532 hours in space before leaving NASA for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, where she ultimately served as the administrator.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit

You won’t find a paywall here. Come as often as you like — we’re not counting. You’ve found a like-minded tribe that cherishes what a free press stands for.  If you can spend another couple of minutes making a pledge of as little as $5, you’ll feel like a superhero defending democracy for less than the cost of a month of Netflix.