The National Science Foundation (NFS) said Friday that clearing the debris from the Arecibo Radio Telescope, which collapsed last year, could cost up to $ 50 million in Puerto Rico. In addition, he reported that investigations into the cause of the failure of the cables are still ongoing.
The update is part of a report that the federal agency, which owns the telescope, had to present to Congress as research on the Arecibo telescope continues. Until recently it was the largest radio telescope in the world and was used to study pulsars, detect gravitational waves, search for neutral hydrogen, and detect habitable planets, among other things.
The NSF noted that the results of forensic evaluations conducted by engineering companies, including mapping the debris distribution, will not be ready until later this year. In addition, the NSF said it asked the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine to conduct an independent and expedited study on the causes of the collapse of the telescope.
“Ensuring safety has remained the NSF’s top priority,” the report stated. “This includes not only the safety of personnel at the site, but also the safety of the environment in the area and the need to address concerns about historical and cultural preservation.”
Estimated cleanup costs range from $ 30 million to $ 50 million, and teams are currently taking soil samples and excavating areas contaminated by hydraulic oil. The telescope is located in the karst region of Puerto Rico, which serves as an important source of water and contains the richest biodiversity on the Island.
NSF said officials also plan to test the soil and water, and prevent sediment and contaminants from migrating to other areas.
Meanwhile, the University of Central Florida, which manages the telescope, is tasked with examining the debris to identify any equipment that can be reused or possibly displayed at the site or at another museum.
“All the scientific infrastructure that can be used is being saved,” the NSF said.
The federal agency said it is still evaluating whether any damaged technology that can be salvaged can be repaired. Some technologies are still in use, including two LIDAR facilities used for upper atmosphere and ionospheric research, such as cloud cover analysis and precipitation data.
The dish was damaged in August when an auxiliary cable broke causing a 100-foot cut that broke about 250 of the structure’s 40,000 aluminum reflector panels and damaging the receiver platform hanging above it.
Then, in early November, a main cable broke, and engineers warned that additional cable failure would likely be catastrophic.
A month later, the telescope’s 900-ton receiving platform and the Gregorian dome, a structure as tall as a four-story building that houses secondary reflectors, fell more than 400 feet onto the dish.
It was a devastating event for scientists around the world who had been using the telescope for almost six decades.