Cousteau delays Keys underwater research

October 30, 2013 

A 31-day stay in an underwater research laboratory in the Florida Keys by ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau's grandson has been postponed until the spring.

Fabien Cousteau had planned to dive to the Aquarius Reef Base next month with a team of filmmakers and scientists. They planned to spend 31 days below the ocean's surface, testing experimental equipment and conducting research on the underwater effects of climate change.

Cousteau's privately funded Mission 31 now is planned for the spring. In a statement last week, Cousteau said the 16-day, partial shutdown of the U.S. government delayed film and science permits the mission requires.

Aquarius sits about 60 feet below the ocean's surface. It's owned by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and managed by Florida International University.

FIU spokeswoman Maydel Santana-Bravo has said running the base costs about $1.2 million a year.

NOAA submerged Aquarius in 1993, and since then it has afforded scientists an opportunity to work for days in a natural underwater setting. The surrounding ocean floor is teeming with sea life. It is used to train specialized divers and astronauts.

Scientists can live in Aquarius for days or weeks at a time. They can scuba dive up to nine continuous hours a day without needing to return to the surface to decompress.

It is ideal for astronaut training, as well, because the undersea environment is similar to a low earth orbit, which is helpful to astronauts preparing for the real thing.

Aquarius is 400 square feet and has bunks and a kitchen. It accommodates six people.

This report was supplemented with information from KeysNet archives.

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