Chairwoman Maritza Davila of the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force today expressed a desire for the incoming Biden administration to take a second look at a plan by the US National Science Foundation to begin decommissioning the Arecibo Observatory.
Until recently, Arecibo was the largest single-dish radio telescope in the world. Arecibo Is both a local icon and a major international scientific institution in an area which in the last few years has been devastated by hurricanes, earthquakes and a pandemic. The Arecibo’s visitor center opened in 1997 is a regular field trip destination for the island's students and a source of employment for many local residents. While we understand that the failure of the support cables has brought to light the reality that this institution needs major repairs with no guarantee that it can be permanently stabilized. However, we are a country that has put a man on the moon, developed zero emission vehicles, put supercomputers in our hands and worked with the private sector to develop a COVID-19 vaccine in record time. Perhaps before we rush to judgment we should take another minute and look to see if we can save this telescope, after all over the last fifty plus years, it is given us so much from in the area of scientific discovery and communications, we think we owe it to both the next generation of scientific minds and the residents of the island of Puerto Rico to give it a real concerted effort to save Arecibo. When America sets its mind to do something, there is nothing that can stop us.