Two decades ago, there were several long-dwell scientific habitats scattered on the continental shelves of the world. Now there is just one, Aquarius Reef Base off the Florida Keys. Fabien Cousteau, grandson of Jacques, will dive today to join a five-man crew for a 31-day stay. Cousteau will help with experiments while filming the underwater odyssey. It's a worthwhile mission, though it highlights the restricted funding for underwater exploration worldwide. The last great frontier on Earth has only one outpost of Homo sapiens, and even it was almost shut down for budgetary reasons in 2012. It only survives because of frantic fundraising efforts and some support from NASA, which sends astronauts there to train. Space explorers get used to the confined space, hostile environment, and weightlessness-like underwater conditions to prepare them for space station flights.
Cousteau calls his effort "Mission 31." Here's hoping it won't be "Mission Final" for Aquarius.
UPDATE: Mission 31 was a complete success. Here's hoping it brings a reappraisal of how atrophied the human presence on the seafloor has become.