The National Science Foundation (NSF) is all set to decommission the iconic telescope in astronomy history, the Arecibo Observatory's massive radio dish after the damage has made the facility too dangerous to repair. The announcement came as scientists awaited a verdict about the iconic observatory's fate after damage to the complex cabling supporting a 900-ton science platform suspended over the dish.
It was reported in August that a cable slipped out of its socket, but engineers evaluating the situation deemed it stable; earlier this month, a second cable unexpectedly snapped, leaving Arecibo's fate much more perilous. After considering three separate engineering reports, the NSF, which owns the property, has decided the facility is unstable enough that there is no way to repair the damage that does not put personnel at undue risk.
"Our goal has been to find a way to preserve the telescope without placing anyone's safety at risk," Sean Jones, assistant director for the Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate at the NSF, said in a news conference. During the news conference, the officials stated that the decision was based on prioritizing safety, not reflecting the scientific work that Arecibo has done over the past decades or could continue to do in the future. Some hoped-for science will be lost with the facility.