CEDAR email: NSF begins planning for decommissioning of Arecibo Observatory’s 305-meter telescope due to safety concerns

Wiltberger, Michael J mwiltber at nsf.gov
Thu Nov 19 13:11:34 MST 2020

Many of you already aware of the recent damage sustained by Arecibo Observatory’s 305-meter telescope.  NSF is announcing that after reviewing all of the engineering assessments, the structure cannot be stabilized without risking the lives and safety of work crews and staff, so NSF has decided to begin planning for a controlled decommissioning for the 305-meter telescope. This decision is intended to preserve life and safety of people and prevent the loss of other facilities at Arecibo Observatory, including the visitor/education center, in the event of an unexpected collapse.

This decision was not an easy one for NSF to make. Many of those working on this issue are astronomers and geospace scientists who have deep connections to the research community. We understand how much Arecibo means to that community and to Puerto Rico. Our goal has been to find a way to preserve this telescope without placing anyone’s safety at risk. However, after receiving the engineering assessments, we have found no path forward that would allow us to preserve the telescope safely. We know that a delay in decision-making leaves the entire facility in peril of an uncontrolled collapse, unnecessarily jeopardizing people and also the additional facilities.

The full press release regarding this decision can be accessed at https://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=301674

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