The world's only undersea research lab

Sep 19, 2013 by Marlen Mursuli

Aquarius Reef Base – the world's only undersea research lab – has come back to life under the auspices of Florida International University.

On Wednesday, FIU researchers celebrated the completion of a NASA training mission, "Sea Test II," the first since FIU took over Aquarius operations earlier this year, and offered the public a peek inside the habitat that allows scientists to live, work and train 63 feet under the sea for weeks at a time. Aquarius is located off Conch Reef in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

"Today we celebrate the re-birth of Aquarius," said FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg. "We are grateful to our partners in the federal government and so many others who have made it possible for us to rescue this unique scientific gem and put it back to work for the benefit of the ."

Aquarius, deployed in 1993 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), was slated for decommissioning this year, when FIU stepped forward with a plan to keep the reef base operational.

The special diving capability of Aquarius, called saturation diving, allows scientists to work underwater up to nine hours a day without fear of getting the bends, compared to one hour if they were diving from the surface. Increased research time is the key element that enhances scientific productivity beneath the sea. Aquarius is also used by NASA to train and develop engineering concepts, since the undersea environment is similar to conditions in space.

Jim Fourqurean, Aileen Soto and Christian Lopes pose under the wet porch of Aquarius.

"Our team has worked very hard over the past year to save Aquarius because we know the great work that has been done here, and we believe in the reef base's potential as a source of new scientific understanding and student discovery," said Kenneth G. Furton, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. "We have an aggressive business plan in place and will continue to pursue financial viability through grants, gifts and underwritten missions."

The latest NASA mission, which ended last week, focused on proof-of-concept engineering demonstrations and refining space communication techniques.

"After many years of working at Aquarius, we are very happy that FIU has taken over the operations," said Bill Todd, project lead for NASA's Sea Test and NEEMO projects. "All of the staff were very well prepared and allowed us to complete another successful astronaut training and engineering mission. The teamwork between NASA and its international partners, the U.S. Navy and FIU on this very first mission under FIU leadership was exemplary."

Explore further: Cousteau's grandson plans 31-day undersea mission

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NASA's undersea mission submerges in the Atlantic

Jun 12, 2012

An international crew of aquanauts is settling into its home on the ocean floor, where the team will spend 12 days testing concepts for a potential asteroid mission. The expedition is the 16th excursion of the NASA Extreme ...

NASA Undersea Mission Begins

Aug 07, 2007

Three astronauts and a Constellation Program aerospace engineer began a 10-day NASA mission in the ocean depths off the Florida coast Aug. 6. They will test lunar exploration concepts and a suite of long-duration ...

NASA evacuates astronauts from deep-sea training

Oct 26, 2011

NASA evacuated a crew of astronauts Wednesday from an underwater lab off the coast of Florida where they were training for a trip to an asteroid, due to the approach of Hurricane Rina.

Recommended for you

Magnitude-7.2 earthquake shakes Mexican capital

Apr 18, 2014

A powerful magnitude-7.2 earthquake shook central and southern Mexico on Friday, sending panicked people into the streets. Some walls cracked and fell, but there were no reports of major damage or casualties.

User comments : 0

More news stories

China says massive area of its soil polluted

A huge area of China's soil covering more than twice the size of Spain is estimated to be polluted, the government said Thursday, announcing findings of a survey previously kept secret.

UN weather agency warns of 'El Nino' this year

The UN weather agency Tuesday warned there was a good chance of an "El Nino" climate phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean this year, bringing droughts and heavy rainfall to the rest of the world.

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...