The US National Science Foundation announced Thursday that it will not rebuild Puerto Rico’s famed Radio Telescope, which was one of the largest in the world until it collapsed nearly two years ago.
Instead, the agency (NSF) has issued a request to create a $5 million education center on the site that will promote STEM-related programs and associations. It is also seeking to implement a manpower research and development programme, and the center is set to open next year in the mountainous town of Arecibo in the north of the island, where the telescope was once located.
The request does not include operational support for existing site infrastructure still in use, including the 12-meter radio telescope or the Lidar Facility, which is used to study the upper atmosphere and ionosphere to analyze cloud cover and precipitation data.
Scientists from around the world lamented the decision, after using the telescope at the Arecibo Observatory for years to search for asteroids, planets and extraterrestrial life. The 1,000-foot (305-meter) antenna was also featured in Jodie Foster’s “Contact” and James Bond’s “Golden Eye.”
The reflective dish and 900-ton platform that is 130 meters (450 feet) high have enabled scientists to track Earth-bound asteroids, conduct Nobel Prize-winning research, and determine if the planet is habitable.
“We understand how much the site has meant to the community,” said Shawn Jones, deputy director of the Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate at the US National Science Foundation. “If you’re a radio astronomer, you’ve probably spent some time in your career at Arecibo.”
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