Sir Richard Branson and explorer Chris Welsh (L) attend a press conference in Newport Beach, Calif. (Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images)

The first dive will take place later this year in the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean, the lowest elevation on the surface of the earth, estimated to be almost 7 miles below sea level.

The other dives will take place within the next two years in the Puerto Rico Trench in the Atlantic Ocean, the Diamantina Trench in the Indian Ocean, the South Sandwich Trench in the Southern Ocean and the Molloy Deep in the Arctic Ocean.

The trip will not just be pursuing a rich man’s whim to sightsee in the deep. Branson has partnered with a number of research organizations to study the tectonic plates and bring back water, microbes and possibly small creatures.

“We have 800 pounds of moon rocks and not one drop from the bottom of the ocean,” Alex Tai, Virgin Group director of special projects told the Associated Press.

See the plan below:

Update: The post used to state the depth of the Mariana Trench as 11,000 miles under the sea. BlogPost reader David writes, “Um, 11,000 miles below sea level?  That would put the bottom of it somewhere in space above the southern Atlantic Ocean.” So either Branson is still sticking to space travel, or I stupidly mistook meters for miles. It’s actually only about seven miles below sea level. Thank you, David!