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National Science Foundation decides to fund only one giant telescope

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has decided that its astronomy program does not have sufficient funds for building both the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) in Hawaii and the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) in Chile, and will decide in May which one it will choose.

The GMT and TMT—both backed by consortia of universities, philanthropic foundations, and international partners—set out to build their next generation instruments in the early 2000s. But this privately funded approach, which during the 20th century produced the twin 10-meter Keck telescopes in Hawaii and the two 6.5-meter Magellan telescopes in Chile, stumbled when it came to multibillion-dollar projects. Although design work and mirror casting forged ahead, both projects failed to amass enough funding to complete construction. (A dispute with Native Hawaiians over the Hawaii site has also slowed the TMT.)

I predict that this decision puts the final nail in TMT’s coffin. That telescope was on schedule in 2015 — when construction was set to begin — to be already operational now, well ahead of GMT. The opposition in Hawaii by a minority of leftist protestors, who also had the backing of the state government (run entirely by the Democratic Party), blocked that construction even as the building of GMT’s mirrors proceeded.

Almost a decade later, while TMT sits in limbo, unbuilt, GMT is nearing completion, with its last mirror presently being fabricated and construction at its site now more than half done. It is expected to be finished by 2028, and is almost certainly going to get that NSF funding.

As I noted however in July 2023,

Not that any of this really matters. In the near term, ground-based astronomy on Earth is going to become increasingly impractical and insufficient, first because of the difficulties of making good observations though the atmosphere and the tens of thousands of satellites expected in the coming decades, and second because new space-based astronomy is going to make it all obsolete. All it will take will be to launch one 8-meter telescope on Starship and [GMT] will become the equivalent of a buggy whip.

The great tragedy of TMT is that the astronomers themselves at the project were not willing to fight that tiny minority of protesters, whose protests were based on the essentials of critical race theory that makes whites the devils and all other minorities saints. As academics trained in these insane ideas, the astronomy community accepted this bigoted premise, and out of guilt allowed those protesters to rule.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News

One comment

  • MDN

    And we won’t have to settle for just ONE 8m space telescope. With the cost of 8m mirrors now quite modest due to the production technology of the Arizona Mirror Lab, and the cost to access space about to tithe yet again with Starship, we will be able to deploy a SWARM to. expand our view. And we’ll be able to service them indefinitely with ever improving instrumentation for a lot less than it would cost to perpetually appease the Hawaiian leftist’s to operate and maintain the TMT.

    Go Starship!

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