Nadia Drake: NSF investigating how to shut down Arecibo
The giant Arecibo radio telescope is a scientific instrument without equal anywhere in the world. For planetary scientists, it has unique capabilities to discover the natures of near-Earth objects, and is a valuable tool in our efforts to study, and reduce the risk from, potentially hazardous asteroids. It's been used to study everything from ice on Mercury to lakes on Titan. But it's expensive to maintain, and its funding agency, the National Science Foundation (NSF), has had a flat budget for years, leading to a decade of threats of defunding and/or closure.
National Geographic writer Nadia Drake has been following the status of Arecibo very closely. She provides a history of the funding problems in a June 4 article, "Uncertain Future for Earth’s Biggest Telescope." The latest twist in the story is this:
That might sound innocuous – after all, isn’t it a good idea to study the context in which our science facilities exist? Yet it’s anything but benign. Putting that environmental assessment together is a crucial step NSF needs to take if it plans to yank funding from the observatory and effectively shut it down.