The US government announced that it will not rebuild the famous arecibo telescope in Puerto Rico, after its structure collapsed two years ago.
Instead, the agency issued a request for the creation of a $5 million educational center on the site that would promote programs and partnerships related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. It also seeks to implement a workforce research and development program.
The decision was lamented by scientists around the world who used the telescope at the Arecibo Observatory for years to search for asteroids, planets and extraterrestrial life. The 1,000-foot-wide (305-meter-wide) dish was also featured in the Jodie Foster film “Contact” and the James Bond film “GoldenEye.”
The reflector dish and the 900-ton platform that hung 450 feet above it previously allowed scientists to track Earth-bound asteroids, conduct research that led to a Nobel Prize, and determine whether a planet is potentially habitable.
“We understand how much the site has meant to the community,” said Sean Jones, deputy director of the NSF’s mathematical and physical sciences directorate. “If you’re a radio astronomer, you’ve probably spent some time in your career in Arecibo.”
Jones also said the decision not to rebuild the telescope is due in part to the fact that the US government has other radar facilities that can be part of the mission that Arecibo once did.