A Flying Submarine Takes Richard Branson to New Depths

The Virgin Oceanic Submarine embodies an entirely new type of vessel that can dive to 37,000 feet and fly through the ocean using wings similar to an airplane’s wings. It will be able to dive 7 miles straight down to the deepest place on the planet, the bottom of the Mariana Trench, where only one other vessel has ever gone before. Unlike the previous Mariana Trench dive, Virgin Oceanic will be able to fly around and explore while the submarine is there.

This amazing new submarine is Richard Branson’s homage to his fellow adventurer and dear friend, the late Steve Fossett, who originally commissioned the submarine and dreamed of piloting it himself. Branson has now finished what Fossett started, and he hopes that successful Virgin Oceanic dives will open the door to new exploration and scientific discovery.

This undersea venture is very much like Branson’s space venture. Virgin Galactic travels into suborbital space using a novel spaceplane. The space enterprise rose from the success of the prototype vehicle SpaceShipOne completing its original mission and Branson’s boyhood dream of exploring space. Virgin Galactic is currently extensively testing the first SpaceShipTwo model, with plans for a commercial tourism and payload delivery operation when all testing is finished. While other companies are developing spaceplanes of their own, Virgin Galactic is the only company which has one in testing right now.

Just as Branson jumps on new technology and harnesses it to explore our planet and beyond, he also jumps on new technology to save our planet. He created a challenge with a $25 million prize for technology which would remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Naturally, this challenge is called the Virgin Earth Challenge. This concept came from seeing the X-Prize succeed in stimulating innovation that ultimately created SpaceShipOne. No new technology has yet hit the marketplace as a result of this challenge, but applicants have registered entries. There is no doubt that once something earns that prize, Branson will put it to good use.

Branson’s genius for seeing something great and making it happen first became apparent when he started selling “cut-out” records. He purchased remaindered overstock records (known as “cut-outs”) in bulk, and then re-sold them at a discount. He was soon able to create his own recording studio with the profits. From there, Branson proceeded to discover and promote new musical artists. His instinct for finding innovative artists is the same instinct he now applies to finding innovative technology.

So, while the new Virgin Oceanic Submarine has not yet proved itself, there is little doubt that it will.


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