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RICHMOND, CA (KGO) -- Millionaire Steve Fossett left behind a secret vessel that was being built right here in the Bay Area. He funded a deep sea submersible -- which, its builders say, was capable of "flying" to the bottom of the ocean.
"We were his big secret project this was to make a record dive to bottom of the planet," says Graham Hawkes, from Hawkes Ocean Technologies.
The Deep Space Challenger looks like a plane, but is actually a winged submersible - capable of diving to the lowest spot on Earth, The Mariana Trench. It is 37,000 feet below the surface and until now, the ship has been kept under wraps in a Richmond warehouse.
"These kinds of craft, we see as being necessary to be the cutting edge of that exploratory effort," Hawkes said, "so we see markets in 26 countries that are already gearing up for ocean exploration. It's not the kind of marine science where you're looking at protecting marine species, but you're looking at...expanding your national territory."
Among the resources that various national and private interests think they could find in these deep ocean places are new kinds of minerals as well as food sources.
Not being able to complete the Fossett mission, of course, has been a blow to Hawkes and his company's plans, and while it must certainly be frustrating to see the Deep Flight Challenger sitting prone behind locked doors, Hawkes said it isn't in any way up to him to determine what happens to the vessel now.
Originally posted by Anonymous ATS
I'm sure the U.S. Navy had a more than passive interest in this craft's future...every Navy in the world would have been watching with keen curiosity and perhaps some envy when Fossett began his tests.
The technology of a craft that is part plane, part sub, part space shuttle being able to "fly" to the bottom of the sea and "rocket" back up again is a Navy's dream come true.
According to Hawkes, there are five submarines in the world built for deep-water use, that is, for diving below 5,000 feet. But they are huge (more than 50,000 pounds) compared to the Challenger (under 10,000 pounds), he said. They also cost so much to build, about $100 million, that only governments can afford them (likely for military use). His winged sub is built in what he calls a "skunkworks," a 1,500-square-foot facility, and the cost is under $10 million.
"The sub weighs one-tenth the weight of the other deep submersibles and has ten times the range," Hawkes said. "That means we can transport it any way we want around the world."