Tomorrow Friday, June 22nd, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and her husband, prominent attorney and Vietnam veteran, Dexter Lehtinen, will SCUBA dive to the Aquarius Reef Base, the world's only undersea research station, which is located within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary at Conch Reef - 3 miles offshore at a depth of 60 feet.
To date, Aquarius has supported over 124 missions, producing some 300 peer-reviewed scientific publications on a wide array of marine issues. The special diving capability of Aquarius, called saturation diving, allows scientists to conduct research on the reef for up to nine hours a day. Increased research time is the key element that enhances scientific productivity through the Reef Base. Currently, a team of NASA scientists, engineers and astronauts are training in Aquarius for a manned mission to an asteroid in 2025.
Said Ros-Lehtinen, "I have twice had the opportunity to participate in dives to Aquarius and learn about its mission, see its resources, and to help promote its education and outreach efforts. Aquarius is unique and the research done there cannot be replicated anywhere else. In fact, Aquarius is a key component of one of the longest running and detailed coral reef monitoring programs in the world. Coral reefs, like ours in the Florida Keys, are some of the most biologically diverse and spectacular places on earth. Friday will certainly be a bittersweet dive knowing that the NOAA budget terminates funding for this innovative laboratory.
In my capacity as a Member of Congress, I will continue to make it my mission to protect aquatic ecological treasures. From issues such as coral bleaching to water quality and opposing the devastating effects of off-shore oil drilling in the Florida Keys, I know that there are significant threats faced by our oceans. I am committed to ensuring that future generations are able to enjoy all of our natural wonders."