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You Asked … Sir Richard Branson Answered!

January 17th, 2012

Richard Branson. Photo credit: Gultaggen via Flickr

Awesome!  When we learned last Fall that billionaire entrepeneur and adventurer Sir Richard Branson was developing a submarine to be the first to explore the deepest parts of our underwater world, we remember thinking THAT IS COOL. (To read HTE’s original post, click here) .

What more could you want in a news story? It’s got elements of discovery, exploration, adventure, science, environmental conservation … and a charismatic cultural icon spearheading the whole thing! Richard Branson is one of the wealthiest people in the world, has been knighted by the Queen, holds a Guinness World Record, and was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. (Hard to believe but he also had a really hard time in school).

So, what made it even cooler is that he agreed to take 20 questions about it from YOU … HTE kid readers! Thank you, Richard Branson!

Here There Everywhere — News for Kids, in conjunction with Sir Richard Branson, through his Virgin Group blog and Virgin Oceanic , are thrilled to share part 1 of his answers to your questions about his upcoming submarine adventures (and a few other topics, too!):

1. Why not build a submarine rocket so you can go down faster? And if the wings are designed to go down, how do you go back up? Thank you!

Arlo, age 7

A rocket submarine! That is a good idea! The main reason we did not go the rocket-powered route is that we wanted to be able to have more control over the vehicle during the descent to the bottom and not hit any fish on the way down. Using rockets underwater is also very rare so we thought we would stick with something we have a little more experience with!

The wings are designed to go up and down. Unlike airplane wings which are slightly more curved on the top than the bottom our wings are symmetrical (the same on the top and bottom). When we are going down they help us go down and when we are going up they help us go up.  To make it more efficient though, we also are carrying about 600 lbs of ballast (think of it like gym weights) to help us sink to the bottom faster (it will still take 2.5 hours). Once near the bottom, we will drop half of that weight to slow our descent and then after our mission when we are ready to come up we will drop the other half. There is enough floatation foam on the vehicle that once we have dropped the weight we will be positively bouyant and will be able to ascend back up to the surface.

2. What will power your submarine and how will you get back to the surface?

Owen, age 10

The submarine is powered by an array of batteries, similar to what you would have in a hybrid car. These batteries help turn the propeller that keeps us moving forward. On the way down all the extra ballast (weight) that we are carrying helps us descend to the sea floor, when we have completed the mission we can drop the ballast and the propellers will drive us forward as we float back up to the surface

3. What type of marine life do you hope to see during these deep dives?

Bryce, age 8

Very big ones! We hope to see whales and sharks on the way down and once at the bottom anything at all would be exciting. There is very little known about what lives at the very bottom of these trenches so a crab, shrimp, fish or even a bacterial mat would be an exciting discovery to record for scientists and kids!

4. What will you be wearing on your trip down to the trench? Is your sub temperature controlled? How long will it take you to go down and come back up again? Good luck on this fantastic voyage!

Atri, age 8

I will be wearing a very cool jumpsuit similar to what race car drivers wear. The sub is not temperature controlled so it can be warm on the surface (when we are near the equator) and very cold at the bottom (the bottom of the ocean is just above freezing). I may need to bring some wool socks to keep my feet warm while I am on the bottom! The trip will take about 2.5 hours to get down, 2 hours flying around at the bottom of the ocean, and 2.5 hours to get back to the surface.

5. What drives you to continue to make these strides both in exploration and in business?

Natasha, age 15

Over the last few decades as I’ve started up one exciting business after another, but what really inspires me is turning upside down the way we approach the challenges we are facing in the world and look at them in a brand new entrepreneurial way. Never has there been a more exciting time for all of us to explore this great next frontier where the boundaries between work and purpose are merging into one, where doing good, really is good for business. This is what inspires me now and what really pulls me forward.

6. To you what is the most exciting thing about being the first to do something?

Alexis, age 8

I like showing people that things can be done. That the sky is not the limit. To remind people what it looks like to really live. And maybe inspire then to tackle their own projects and dreams. Being the first is useful because that is the one the press will cover and its gives me a chance to keep getting that idea out to people.

7. On the website it said you were interested in protecting the oceans as well as exploring it. Do you think that this new exploration will help protect the ocean and how?

Jordan, age 9

I think this project will help draw attention to the ocean and the more people are thinking about something or feeling connected with something, the more they will care about it. In addition though we are also working directly on ways to protect our oceans and I am even working with some of the worlds foremost ocean experts as part of our Ocean Elders project that we hope will further our goal of protecting the ocean. You can suggest ideas to us or vote on ideas already submitted on our website

8. Will you find it scary to go down there to the unknown? What do you think you will find?

Jake, age 7

Doing something for the first time is inherently scary. The trick is to make sure you have weighed all the risks, protect yourself from the downside and then sometimes say  let’s just do it!

What I hope to find is some amazing life forms or anything that will benefit the scientific community. They are very excited to see the footage and hopefully samples that we will be able to bring back.

9. How are you going to prepare? Do you have to prepare yourself in a special way or just be ready for anything?

Noah, age 12

I have to get my sub pilots license! I have done my first round of sub flight training, but there is more to do to learn to fly the sub myself. I will also have to make sure I can navigate and identify what I am seeing so I know what targets are most interesting to try to get closer to. That and just be ready for anything…

10. Do you think you will get down that deep on the first try or will it take a few times to get everything just right?

Erik, age 6

Great things often take a few tries! My first balloon attempts didnt work out so well, but we wont give up if our dive attempt doesn’t work perfectly the first time.

Thanks Richard Branson … and HTE kids! Stay tuned for Part 2 next week!

Richard Branson on his submarine. Photo credit: Virgin Oceanic

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