Written by Amos Nachoum

MSNBC and CNET say that Richard Branson has plans to explore the five deepest regions of Earth’s oceans: the Mariana Trench in the Pacific, the Puerto Rico Trench and the South Sandwich Trench in the Atlantic, the Diamantina trench in the Indian, and the Molloy Deep in the Arctic.

Over the next two years, Branson says he and fellow explorers will use a solo submarine, the DeepFlight Challenger, to dive into waters that are 28,000 to 36,000 feet deep. They will be going deeper into the water than Mount Everest is high. The Mariana Trench dive, the first of the five dives, is supposed to take place later this year and take approximately five hours to complete. The submarine cost about $17 million and it can give 350 feet per minute. Here’s a video showing an artist’s rendering of what the journey might be like.

Sir Richard is backing the underwater journeys for science and education purposes. If they’re successful, the dives will certainly set new world records. Each dive will be recorded and uploaded to Google Earth, which is a great place to find out more about how interconnected we all are with the world’s oceans. I’ve posted a few things on Google Earth myself: stories of my encounters with Great White sharks, sailfish near Isla Mujeres and Striped marlin.

Branson is partnering with Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, the Monterrey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, and Moss Landing Marine Labs in Northern California. Scientists at those institutions hope to study tectonic plates and bring back water samples, microbes, and possibly smaller animals from the ocean depths.

Last year, Branson unveiled a three-person submarine called the Necker Nymph, which is available (at a price) for guests of his private Caribbean resort and capable of going almost 100 feet deep. In addition, Branson has also been working on a space tourism venture with the construction of a $209 million spaceport in New Mexico. The businessman has big plans to launch the first suborbital flights from the spaceport between Summer, 2011 and Spring, 2012.

“If someone says something is impossible, we like to prove it’s possible,” Branson said in one of the articles. “I love learning and I’m just very fortunate to participate in these kinds of adventures.”

Branson has become famous for planning those space flights for “space tourists” and he’s confident that people will pay for the pleasure. I think he’s right – if there is a fascinating place to travel to, one that might change your life if you see it, then it’s worth going there.

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