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Underwater Research Base Loses Funding – Mission Being Broadcast for Six Days

Underwater Research Base Loses Funding – Mission Being Broadcast for Six Days
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NOTE: This is a guest blog post from Ted Reckas, Online Editor for One World One Ocean.

For six days starting today, One World One Ocean will broadcast live coverage and in depth reporting of what could be the final mission to Aquarius Reef Base, the world’s last undersea research station, 60 feet underwater in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

The lab allows scientists to live underwater for up to two weeks at a time, pushing the boundary of what we know about the ocean. It is the last vestige of a rich 50-year tradition of ocean explorers living underwater, started by Jaques Yves Cousteau with Conshelf I, in 1962. Aquarius has been cut from next year’s federal budget and may be closed as soon as December.

Our mission at One World One Ocean is to inspire people to protect the ocean. When there are plenty of ocean issues that deserve attention flying under the public’s radar, why have we sent a team of top-notch cinematographers to train their lenses on a little-known research base that may be closed by Christmas?

Because it has provided two decades of research and discoveries, from understanding the disappearance of coral reefs, to studying sea sponges, the source of cancer drugs Halaven and Ara-C. NASA uses Aquarius to train astronauts for space, and just completed its 16thmission there, which focused on landing and working on an asteroid, a few weeks ago.

“It is one of the most valuable and productive tools the US has for coral reef science… It is also a wonderful test bed for ocean technology,” said Dr. Mark Patterson, Director of Autonomous Systems Lab, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, and lead aquanaut on Aquarius missions, in a letter to the leaders of NOAA.

Aquarius is important because it massively speeds up the timeline for getting science done. Patterson, said, “Scientists can accomplish in nine days what might take 9-12 months otherwise. It’s a time machine.”

Scuba diving is arduous, and most dives are about an hour because of decompression time. With Aquarius you don’t have to surface, so no time is wasted on decompression. Scientists can just return to the base from 9-hour dives, dry off, keep working, and repeat this for up to 16 days.

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Photo credit: DJ Roller/Liquid Pictures 3D

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17 comments

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6:55PM PDT on Jul 20, 2012

Good news, Dr. Sylvia Earle, among others, have formed a non-profit org to fund the continuance of the Aquarius Project.

My wife and I had the privilege of working with both NOAA and the National Marine Sanctuary, over a period of 5 years. Working with Aquaius = Precious. Enough said.

11:10AM PDT on Jul 18, 2012

We don't need the constant upkeep of an undersea research station when we have submarines we can take down there on an as-needed basis. A metaphor: Why would I pay mortgage and home insurance on a vacation home I seldom ever visit when it's cheaper to just get hotel room when needed?

12:59AM PDT on Jul 18, 2012

If NASA uses the facility to train its astronauts, I don`t understand why there`s a lack of funding. I guess they`re making cutbacks in their programmes too though. Perhaps Aquarius Reef Base could be handed over to keen amateur divers to at least keep it operational, and as a facility for amateur scientific research ? We tend to forget how much has been discovered by amateur scholars in the past !

12:28AM PDT on Jul 18, 2012

I am sure I could find 100 really dumb programs that received funding from Congress because they benefited some person or corporation. What a shame a program that benefited the planet was not funded. It is nuts.

9:05PM PDT on Jul 17, 2012

thanks

4:37PM PDT on Jul 17, 2012

Very sad,,, And a great loss. Thank you for the information.

4:09PM PDT on Jul 17, 2012

Its much needed and I think about the way that our money is used !!!

12:04PM PDT on Jul 17, 2012

Very sad.

11:57AM PDT on Jul 17, 2012

Why not use a submarine instead?

11:18AM PDT on Jul 17, 2012

Its old and probably dangerous to occupants. A new one should be funded.

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