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Saturday, 16 June 2012

China sets new record submersible deepest seas dive

Chinese sub dives over 6,000 meters

ABOARD XIANGYANGHONG 09 - China's manned deep-sea submersible Jiaolong and three divers inside are rising from over 6,000 meters below the sea in the Mariana Trench after setting the country's dive record on Friday.
China's manned deep-sea submersible, Jiaolong, is unmoored from its mother ship before making its first dive in the Mariana Trench, as part of a bid to go to depths of up to 7,000 meters, June 15, 2012. [Photo/Xinhua]

The dive, which began at 9 am local time Friday (2300 GMT Thursday), is the first of a series of six scheduled ones.

The dive went smoothly and cost about 3 hours for the Jiaolong to reach the depth of 6,000 meters at 12 pm local time (0200GMT), which far surpassed the 5,188-meter record it made last July.

The three divers Ye Cong, Cui Weicheng and Yangbo inside the vessel wished China's Shenzhou-9 spacecraft launch a success from 6,055 meters below the sea.

The Shenzhou-9 manned spacecraft Thursday completed its final full-system drill before its planned launch in mid-June.

The Jiaolong threw ballast iron and began to rise at 12:44 pm local time (0244 GMT).

So far, the three drivers and the Jiaolong itself have been OK.

There was something wrong with the submersible's No 1 communication system, but the No 2 set is working soundly to guarantee the connection between the vessel and Xiangyanghong 09, its mother ship.

The rise is expected to last three hours and the on-scene dive headquarter will timely release the diving information.

The Jiaolong, depending on local weather and sea conditions, will try another five dives, deeper and deeper, in the coming days. The fifth and sixth are scheduled to challenge the depth of 7,000 meters.

The six dives, each of which may last eight to 12 hours, will test various functions and performances of the manned submersible at great depths.

Experts say, for safety, sea dives can only be conducted in daylight under no-more-than-four-class wind and no-more-than-three-class wave.

The Xiangyanghong 09 ship reached the designated dive zone in Mariana Trench on Monday morning.

China's manned deep-sea submersible, Jiaolong, is hung up before making its first dive in the Mariana Trench, as part of a bid to go to depths of up to 7,000 meters, June 15, 2012. [Photo/Xinhua]

Submersible sets new China dive record 

The "Jiaolong" craft descended to a depth of 6,000 metres in the Mariana Trench in the western Pacific OceanEnlarge

File photo of the Chinese submersible "Jiaolong". The manned Chinese submersible on Friday set a new record for the country's deepest ever sea dive at 6,000 metres (19,685 feet), state media said.

A manned Chinese submersible set a new record for the country's deepest sea dive Friday, over 6,000 metres, showing Beijing's technological ambitions as it also readies for its first manned space docking.

The "Jiaolong" craft dived over 19,685 feet into the Mariana Trench in the western Pacific Ocean, the first in a series of six dives which will plumb depths of 7,000 metres, the official Xinhua news agency said.

The deep-sea dive push comes as China prepares to launch a spacecraft on Saturday to conduct its first manned space docking, as part of efforts to establish a permanent space station by 2020.

The submersible, which carried three men, reached around 6,500 metres with only a technical glitch in communications, state media said.

"In our first battle, we have already reached 6,500 metres. All of our tasks have been completed," chief commander Liu Feng told state television aboard the ship carrying the submersible.

He said a piece of communications equipment on the surface of the water failed, but the team switched to a back-up system and restored communications. He did not say whether contact was completely lost with the Jiaolong.

The same vessel -- named after a dragon from Chinese mythology -- reached 5,188 metres in a Pacific dive last July, the nation's previous record.

Friday's dive sparked outpourings of nationalism on the Internet and comparisons to the upcoming space launch.

"Three pilots will take the Jiaolong to attempt the 7,000-metre dive, while three astronauts will take the Shenzhou-9 to connect with the Heavenly Palace," a Shanghai based blogger wrote on his microblog.

"Up in the sky we can pluck the moon, down in the oceans we can catch the turtles," said the posting on Sina's microblog service, quoting a saying attributed to late Chinese leader Mao Zedong.

Experts say China intends to use the submersible for scientific research, such as collecting samples of undersea life and studying geological structures, as well as future development of mineral resources.

But one Chinese expert on Friday described the latest dives as an "experiment" for China and said future use of submersibles for scientific research faced obstacles, such as with stability and durability of the craft.

"Even after it reaches the 7,000-metre depth, it still remains a question whether it can achieve scientific purposes," Zhou Huaiyang, professor of the School of Ocean and Earth Sciences at Shanghai's Tongji University, told AFP.

Scientists say the oceans' floors contain rich deposits of potentially valuable minerals, but the extreme depths pose technical difficulties in harvesting them on a large scale.

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