he video: Richard Branson, the charismatic British billionaire, has piloted hot-air balloons around the world, driven an amphibious car across the English Channel, and will soon fly tourists into space. Now, the founder of the Virgin business empire has unveiled details of his newest adventure — taking an 18-foot winged submarine to the lowest point in the world's oceans. The adventurous entrepreneur hopes to pilot the $10 million Virgin Oceanic submarine, nicknamed the Deep Flight Challenger, to the bottom of the 36,201-foot-deep Mariana Trench — the same underwater abyss where James Cameron hopes to film footage for the sequel to Avatar.
The reaction: "The submarine, of course, does not actually fly," says Matthew Shaer at the Christian Science Monitor. But its "cool-looking wings" do allow it to "wiggle through the sea like a plane arcs across the sky." Branson is a savvy businessman, says Carmel Lobello at Death and Taxes, so it's likely he'll turn this journey of discovery into a "mad expensive vacation." Many of the billionaires he will fly into space have apparently also "expressed interests in becoming 'aquanauts.'" In these days of austerity, it's only the "super-rich" who have the ability to "reach new heights, depths, and glory." Here, a glimpse at the prototype Virgin Oceanic:
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