As China plans to launch a manned spacecraft, they are also planning to send a manned submarine into the world’s deepest trench. Jiaolong, the submarine, has already been used to explore various terrains. Xinhua reports:
The Xiangyanghong 09 ship carrying China’s manned deep-sea submersible Jiaolong arrived at the designated dive area of the Mariana Trench on Monday morning, where it will attempt the world’s first 7,000-meter dive.
The first dive will challenge the depth of over 5,000 meters, but less than 6,200 meters. The fifth and sixth dives are scheduled to challenge the depth of 7,000 meters.
Each dive may last for eight to 12 hours.
“Before the formal sea dives, a comprehensive review of the submersible as well as its support system will be taken,” on-scene commander Liu Feng told Xinhua on the Xiangyanghong 09, the mother oceanographic ship of the submersible.
According to AFP, if this dive is successful, there are plans to use Jiaolong for scientific exploration:
A Chinese expert told AFP that the Jiaolong could be used for scientific research, to collect samples of undersea life and study geological structures.
“It’s not a simply constructed submersible,” said Jian Zhimin, director of the State Key Laboratory of Marine Geology at Shanghai’s Tongji University.
“If it is successful in the 7,000-metre challenge, then it can be turned over to scientists for use,” he said.
Since the Jiaolong’s maximum design depth is 7,000 metres a dive to that level will test the limits of China’s technology, he added.
Jiaolong will attempt to break the previous records for deepest dive, which was previously set by the US. From the Huffington Post:
Much of the deepest ocean is unreachable via state-owned submersibles; at this point, none has dived deeper than 21,300 feet (6,500 m). Only Japan’s Shinkai 6500 has reached such depths. The United States is refurbishing Alvin, its deepest-diving craft, to be able to reach 21,300 feet within the next five years.
The attempt to reach 23,000 feet follows on the heels of James Cameron’s record-setting dive to the Challenger Deep, the deepest part of the Mariana Trench. The filmmaker and explorer made his descent in a submersible of his own design in late March, reaching a depth of 35,756 feet (10,890 meters), or nearly 7 miles beneath the surface of the sea, in two hours and 36 minutes.
It was the first solo dive to the Earth’s deepest spot, and came more than five decades after the only other time humans visited the Challenger Deep in 1960, when a U.S. Navy captain and a Swiss engineer spent 20 minutes in the murk at the very bottom of the sea aboard the Trieste submersible.