Main Engine Cut Off

NSF to Decommission Arecibo Observatory’s Radio Telescope

The National Science Foundation posted this announcement after an assessment of the situation with two failed cables:

The decision comes after NSF evaluated multiple assessments by independent engineering companies that found the telescope structure is in danger of a catastrophic failure and its cables may no longer be capable of carrying the loads they were designed to support. Furthermore, several assessments stated that any attempts at repairs could put workers in potentially life-threatening danger. Even in the event of repairs going forward, engineers found that the structure would likely present long-term stability issues.

A major bummer, but not much of a surprise, honestly. NSF had dropped funding levels for Arecibo significantly in past years, and it had effectively been saved by a consortium led by the University of Central Florida. That transition wasn’t even complete, either, per the timeline stated when management was transitioned in February, 2018:

NSF now spends $8 million a year to run Arecibo, with NASA pitching in another $3.6 million. Under the agreement signed today, by 1 October 2022, NSF’s contribution will shrink to $2 million per year, with the UCF consortium making up the difference.

Maxar posted updated satellite images of the facility, and they are worth a look.

I’m interested to see what the decommissioning plan will be. Mostly to see if it will involve explosives and an awesome video, or if it will be a slower-and-less-exciting-looking deconstruction.