Aquarius looks kind of like a crusty schoolbus on legs. It's about 9 feet wide and 43 feet long, and yellow where the original color shows through the coating of barnacles and sea life.
Aquarius is the world's only active undersea laboratory and habitat. It's located 3 miles off the Florida coast, sitting in about 65 feet of water. The lab is connected to a giant 30 foot bouy on the surface that provides power, fresh air, and wireless internet and cable tv links to the mainland. Aquarius has living quarters (extremely cramped)for marine scientists, graduate students, and recently even astronauts in training, who use the station as training for future missions aboard cramped space ships. As a matter of fact, people who have experienced stays in both say that the space station is much roomier and offers more privacy than the underwater lab.
Aquarius is extremely valuable to scientists doing underwater work because the habitat is pressurized to 2.5 atmospheres, the same as the surrounding water. Divers who have acclimated to that atmospheric pressure can work in the 60-90 foot water for up to 9 hours, as opposed to less than 30 minutes if they are still used to surface pressure. This is called saturation diving and is invaluable to underwater researchers. At the end of their stay, however, divers must go through a 17 hour decompression aboard Aquarius before they are safe to return to the surface.
Aquarius is owned by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and operated by the University of North Carolina in Wilmington, NC. There are three webcams aboard Aquarius. They may be viewed at http://126.96.36.199/aquarius/thumb_cam.htm. The next mission aboard Aquarius starts in Mid-September 2003