Nice write up at the Atlantic about the X Prize for visiting the Challenger Deep. The story covers Richard Branson’s Virgin Oceanic, James Cameron’s Deep Challenge Team, and Bruce Jone’s Triton Submarines. Branson‘s, Cameron‘s, and Jone‘s efforts have been covered here at DSN.
Now, more than 50 years later, humans are nearly ready to return to Challenger Deep. This time, though, they’re planning to stay a while, collecting samples, videotaping whatever might be down there, sending out small remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROVs) and then bringing home $10 million. Earlier this year, the X Prize Foundation made that prize money available to the first privately funded submersible to make two visits to Challenger Deep. This money, though, is little more than proof that humans are fascinated with the extreme: climbing Mount Everest, walking on the Moon, searching the floor of the ocean. Ten million dollars will only cover a fraction of the race to the bottom. And it is indeed a race; one with at least three competitors, each close to claiming the prize.