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Kathy Sullivan: The Woman Who Touched the Top of the Sky & the Bottom of the Sea

BWB’s muse of the month. 

Today, we are able to confidently tell our young girls that they can be anything they want to be. This possibility is largely due to remarkable people like Kathryn D. Sullivan. The geologist-astronaut-oceanographer was born with a natural curiosity and fascination for the undiscovered. Most of the role models in her adventure-filled career path have frequently been men, but this fact never deterred Sullivan. Now 68, Sullivan is the first woman to have completed a spacewalk (1984) and the first woman to reach the deepest part of the ocean (2020).

Credit: Enrique Alvarez

Spacewalk, 1984

Despite being a natural-born explorer, Sullivan was initially attracted to language in university. It wasn’t until after taking a marine biology class that she discovered her love of the sciences. Once her brother convinced her to send in an application to NASA, the rest was history — literally. In 1978, her group was the first to include women. Alongside her were Sally Ride, Judy Resnik, Anna Fisher, Shannon Lucid and Rhea Seddon. Her monumental spacewalk took place in 1984 on her very first mission. After 15 years at NASA, Sullivan logged a total 532 hours in space. She has even been honored in the Astronaut Hall of Fame. Sometimes, brother knows best!

Challenger Deep, 2020

Even after making history through her ascension, Sullivan sought more adventure from another untouched part of this world. On June 7th, she successfully completed a 4-hour descent in a submersible known as “Limiting Factor.” Alongside investor and retired naval officer, Victor Vescovo, she traveled 35,810 feet down to the lowest part of the Marianas Trench. As the blue waters around her grew darker and darker, Sullivan saw a part of the earth that few others have. In fact, she was in a part of the earth where few creatures are able to survive. She described the experience as “wondrous” to CBC.

A BWB Muse

Sullivan’s memoir is truly nothing short of extraordinary. She is a woman of many firsts. The first woman to walk in space, the first person to reach the deepest part of the ocean floor, and the first woman to do both. This heroine is and always will be a BWB muse because she shows us that, regardless of your age or gender, anything is possible. Sullivan inspires us to reach for the stars and swim in uncharted waters. Most of all, she reminds us to never lose our juvenile wonder.

Feature Image Credit: NASA

Alicia Zhang

Originally from Los Angeles, Alicia lived in Shanghai for 11 years before moving back to the states to attend the University of Miami, where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in public relations and minors in art and philosophy. Currently residing in New York City, Alicia applies her knowledge of strategic communication and design in her career. She enjoys painting, rugby, exploring, and more often than not, you’ll find her petting someone’s dog.

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