Richard Branson to Explore Mariana Trench with “Virgin Oceanic” Sub

If you thought Richard Branson could no longer top himself after launching Virgin Galactic—the first commercial spaceline—think again.

Branson announced on Tuesday that he would soon explore the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the world’s oceans, with the help of his latest venture, a single-seater, jet-like submarine capable of diving more than 30,000 feet under water and withstanding over 1,000 atmospheres of water pressure. The Virgin Oceanic, as the hi-tech submarine is called, can support its passenger for up to 24 hours.

Virgin Oceanic’s first dive is scheduled for later this year with explorer Chris Welsh piloting the submarine designed by Graham Hawkes. Branson will take the plunge himself on one of Virgin Oceanic’s next missions, where the 60-year-old billionaire and adventurer is expected to explore the Mariana Trench and bring sample back to the surface. “There is just so much to explore, so much to discover,” Branson told reporters. “We are going to obviously come across some fascinating creatures and learn some fascinating things that will hopefully be useful for mankind.”

If Branson’s Virgin Oceanic mission moves on as planned, it would be only the second manned  exploration of the Mariana Trench. Oceanographers Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard descended a record 35,798 feet into the Challenger Deep, the deepest part of the Mariana Trench, aboard the bathyscaphe Trieste on January 23, 1960.