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World's only undersea lab could shut down

Lack of funding has left the Aquarius Reef Base, an underwater laboratory in the Florida Keys, fighting for its survival.

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Nasa Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) aquanauts are seen at Aquarius Habitat in this NASA handout photo taken off the coast of Key Largo, Florida June 11, 2012. The NEEMO 16 crew has been simulating asteroid exploration on the ocean floor since June 11. They are scheduled to return to the surface June 22, after living for 12 days inside the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Aquarius Underwater Laboratory.

Mark Widick/NASA/Handout/Reuters

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The world's last undersea research laboratory, is running out of money.

The Obama administration cut off funding for the 25-year-old Aquarius Reef Base located 63 feet underwater in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. If it cannot raise money on its own, it will be forced to shut down. The base is owned by the federal government and operated by scientists from the University of North Carolina–Wilmington

Sylvia Earle, former chief scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and now explorer-in-residence at National Geographic, spoke with NPR about the importance of undersea research facilities, especially of saturation diving, in which divers live for long periods under pressure to prevent illness associated with decompression.

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