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World’s only undersea lab falls victim to budget ax

The budget for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s national undersea research program is slated to be eliminated to the dismay of many researchers.

Deployed in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary two decades ago , the Aquarius laboratory has hosted 117 missions since 1993. The 81-ton yellow tube holds six bunks, a galley, a bathroom, a science station and a “wet porch,” where scuba-diving researchers enter and exit. 

Researchers, who dive up to 12 hours a day, have used the platform to investigate everything from how sponges change the ocean’s chemistry to the way water flows over a reef.

But the federal budget crunch and cost overruns in NOAA’s satellite program have put pressure on its ocean programs. Funding for the national undersea research program dropped from $7.4 million in fiscal year 2011 to $3.98 million in fiscal 2012, before the administration slated it for elimination in fiscal year 2013.

By contrast, NOAA has asked for more than $2 billion to fund its weather satellite program in 2013 — a $163 million increase from the current fiscal year.

Click here for the full report by The Washington Post.