June 14, 2016

"On May 23, the National Science Foundation, which funds the majority of Arecibo’s annual $12 million budget, published a notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement related to the observatory’s future."

National Geographic: That might sound innocuous – after all, isn’t it a good idea to study the context in which our science facilities exist? by Nadia Drake

'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.

'“It appears that NSF is following the formal process established, in part, by the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, for decommissioning of a federal facility,” says Robert Kerr, former director of the observatory. “The good folks at Arecibo are scared to death.”

'The decision to close Arecibo hasn’t been made yet, but the move follows an ominous drumbeat of similar announcements and reports that have accumulated over several years, most urging NSF to send its resources elsewhere. Now, options for Arecibo’s future range from continuing current operations to dismantling the telescope and returning the site to its natural state. It’s a decision NSF hopes to make — with input from the public — by the end of 2017, says Jim Ulvestad, director of NSF’s Division of Astronomical Sciences.'

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