Divers work outside the Aquarius underwater laboratory located off the coast of Florida.
Credit: Mark Hay
A monthlong underwater research mission led by Fabien Cousteau, grandson of the celebrated oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, has been postponed until the spring.
Cousteau's expedition, named Mission 31, was scheduled to begin tomorrow (Nov. 12), but officials decided late last month to delay the trip, after some of the necessary science and film permits were held up during the recent shutdown of the federal government, which lasted from Oct. 1 through Oct. 16.
"Much like a NASA launch, a mission of this magnitude has so many moving parts that one ripple can set off an entire schedule of events," Cousteau said in a statement. "It was not an easy decision to make, but in the end, I believe it will benefit everyone even more in the long run."
Mission 31 will be rescheduled for spring 2014, but specific dates have not yet been released.
The privately funded excursion will take place at Aquarius Reef Base, a seafloor habitat located roughly 63 feet (20 meters) underwater in the Florida Keys. Cousteau and a team of scientists and filmmakers will live aboard Aquarius for 31 days, testing new technologies and conducting research on the effects of climate change on corals, sponges and other sea life.
The researchers will also study the physiological and psychological impacts of long-term saturation diving and the effects of living in prolonged confinement, Cousteau has said.
If successful, Cousteau's Mission 31 will surpass his grandfather's famous 30-day stay aboard the Continental Ice Shelf Station Two (Conshelf Two) in 1963. During that underwater mission, Jacques Cousteau experimented with living in a habitat located 30 feet (10 m) beneath the Red Sea, off the coast of Sudan.
The unique Aquarius laboratory is the only underwater marine habitat in the world. The facility is owned by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and is managed by Florida International University. Cousteau's 31-day mission will be the first time an expedition of this length has taken place at Aquarius Reef Base, according to the Mission 31 website.