Researchers are planning to move a telescope worth $1.4 billion from Hawaii to Spain to avoid offending a small group of Native Hawaiians.
The so called Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) was due to be built in Hawaii, but ran into opposition with indigenous groups that didn’t want the project to be built on sacred grounds. Environmentalists also opposed the project.
Opposition forced the U.S. National Academies of Science to reconsider 15 years of planning to construct TMT on the summit of the dormant volcano Mauna Kea.
The Spanish site won’t have the cloud-free Pacific skies, low atmospheric water vapour and other attributes that make Hawaii the best place on Earth for astronomy.
To many Native Hawaiians, Mauna Kea is considered the most sacred of all mountains on the island, with a special connection to their indigenous religion’s deities. So few Hawaiians follow the indigenous religion that it is not listed as a separate category in surveys. The largest religious groups in Hawaii are Christianity and unaffiliated.
Protesters repeatedly attempted to block the construction of the telescope and have attempted to stop it with lawsuits.
The $1.4 billion telescope was supposed to help scientists study the early universe and to work with the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) to examine the atmospheres of planets around other stars in con
JWST is 7 years behind schedule and currently $7.2 billion over its initial budget and seven years. This telescope was initially projected to cost $1.6 billion. The Government Accountability Office now estimates the final cost at $8.8 billion, and NASA has now scheduled the telescope for an October 2018 launch, adding to the telescope’s long history of major cost overruns and delays.
JWST and TMT aren’t the first telescopes to suffer cost overruns and setbacks. The space agency’s Hubble Space Telescope was originally intended to launch in 1983, but technical issues delayed the launch until 1990. NASA discovered that Hubble’s main mirror was incorrectly manufactured after the launch, forcing the space agency to install a corrective lens in orbit using the Space Shuttle.
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