The Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) for the state of Hawai’i voted 5 to 2 in favour of construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope resuming. The decision reverses a previous BLNR decision revoking construction rights from December 2016. However, construction of the giant mirror telescope ground to a halt in 2015.
The $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) project subleased the land atop Mauna Kea from the University of Hawaii. The site has long been eyed by astronomers for its perfect, nearly cloud-free view of the night sky.
In a statement, University of Hawaii officials expressed their belief that the BNLR decision was the right one. “The university first applied for this permit seven years ago, and we believe this decision and the underlying vote represent a fitting and fair reflection of an issue that has divided many in the community who care deeply about Maunakea.”
When it’s finally operational, the TMT will use 492 individual mirror segments to create a 30-meter light-gathering surface. The giant telescope will be utilised for a variety of uses including, studying dark matter and dark energy and characterising exoplanets.
Barring any further distributions to construction, the TMT is set to be brought online in the early 2020s. However, in a Rocket Rundown exclusive statement, TMT officials explained, “There are no immediate plans to resume project constructions as we are assessing our options and potential legal challenges by opponents.”
The future of the TMT project, as a result, seems to be unclear. Should officials continue to struggle to obtain construction permits, the TMT project will be moved to a backup site at Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos on La Palma, in the Canary Islands.
Image Credit: TMT