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Damaged Arecibo Observatory Cleanup Could Cost up to a Whopping $50 Million

Credit: Shutterstock

Credit: Shutterstock

While the investigation into the cause of the collapse of the observatory is still ongoing, the NSF released a seven-page report to Congress on March 5.

The fabled radio telescope Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico that played a key role in several astronomical discoveries for more than half a century was severely damaged in November last year. Ever since its beyond repair damage, a recent report by the National Science Foundation (NSF) estimates it will cost up to $50 million to clean up the damage from the collapsed radio telescope disaster and possible next steps.

While the investigation into the cause of the collapse of the observatory is still ongoing, the NSF released a seven-page report to Congress on March 5. The report was in response through the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 and the bill asked for a report within 60 days about the cause of the collapse of the massive 305-meter radio telescope and subsequent future plans related to the site.

The report outlined its previously stated damage to the telescope sustained in August and November last year, which led the agency to decide that a controlled demolition of the iconic telescope was the best option. But to their dismay, before that work began the telescope’s 900-ton receiver platform and the dome structure as tall as a four-story building that housed its secondary reflectors fell more than 400 feet below.

The NSF said that the debris from the collapse was contained within hazard zones by the engineers after an earlier cable break in November. The report also mentioned that the observing platform and its instruments ‘are a complete loss for scientific purposes’. In the damage survey to the dish and its three support towers, ‘damage beyond the main 305-m dish and support structures was limited,’ it stated, with some buildings suffering damage from falling debris and that should be repairable.

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The report lists the preliminary estimates for the cleanup between $30 million and $50 million from now until the end of 2022. Meanwhile, the Foundation is working with the Puerto Rico State Historic Preservation Office and the Federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation on the ‘protection and preservation of historically important elements of the structures and site.’ They aim to gather valuable or worthwhile objects found during the cleanup process that could go on display at the observatory or sent to various museums.

first published:March 09, 2021, 20:00 IST