NEEMO -- the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations project -- sends groups of NASA employees and contractors to live in Aquarius for up to three weeks at a time. For NASA, Aquarius provides a convincing analog to space exploration, and NEEMO crew members do some of the same tasks and face the same challenges underwater as they would in space.
Like the environment of space, the undersea world is a hostile, alien place for humans to live. Far beneath the waves near Key Largo, Fla., an underwater laboratory called Aquarius provides a safe harbor for scientists to live and work for weeks at a time.
Owned by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and managed by the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Aquarius operates 5.6 kilometers (3.5 miles) off Key Largo in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. It is deployed next to deep coral reefs 19 meters (62 feet) below the surface.
The laboratory is used most often by marine biologists, for whom Aquarius acts as home base as they study the coral reef, the fish, aquatic plants that live nearby and the composition of the surrounding seawater. Aquarius houses sophisticated lab equipment and computers. These enable scientists to perform research and to process samples without leaving their underwater facilities.
Original article: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/NEEMO/