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Construction is set to begin for Hawaii's controversial giant telescope on sacred peak of Mauna Kea

United States Architecture News - Jun 24, 2019 - 06:14   1868 views

Construction is set to begin for Hawaii's controversial giant telescope on sacred peak of Mauna Kea

Construction is set to begin for Hawaii's controversial giant telescope on sacred peak of Mauna Kea, Hawaii. Dubbed as "The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), a giant telescope were not be able to move forward for years due to years of protests and a Supreme Court battle. 

Native Hawaiians have been protesting the construction for many years since the building will be built on top of the Mauna Kea, which they consider to be a sacred mountain, and call themselves "protectors". Previously, dozens of native protests were arrested by local police. Mauna Kea is already home to four large telescopes, and the TMT will be the fifth and largest.

According to a latest press release of TMT, the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) has issued a notice to proceed Network Time Protocol (NTP) to the University of Hawaii and it said "all pre-construction conditions and mitigation measures specifically required as a condition of the Conservation District Use Permit (CDUP) have been met." 

"With the NTP, The Thirty Meter Telescope can proceed with construction."

Construction is set to begin for Hawaii's controversial giant telescope on sacred peak of Mauna Kea

The Thirty Meter Telescope is designed as one of the largest telescopes in existence that allow scientists to search the skies for planets outside of our own solar system. The $1.4 billion telescope is planned to be built on sites in the US, Japan, India, China, Canada, as well as Chile, Mexico and Mauna Kea. Mauna Kea is one of the first locations that receives green-light for construction. 

"TMT is pleased and grateful that the notice to proceed has been issued by the Department of Land and Natural Resources to the University of Hawaii. We remain committed to being good stewards of Maunakea, and to honoring and respecting the culture and traditions of Hawaii," said Henry Yang, Chair, TMT International Observatory Board of Governors. 

"It has been a long process to get to this point. We are deeply grateful to our many friends and community supporters for their advice and for their encouragement and support of the TMT project over the years."

In a news conference, Governor of Hawaii David Ige said construction of the project is set to begin "sometime this summer," but no actual kick-off date has been released.

Ige said that’s because the start date is still being hammered out. "We will proceed in a way that respects the people and place and culture that make Hawaii unique," he said.

Construction is set to begin for Hawaii's controversial giant telescope on sacred peak of Mauna Kea

In 2009, the Thirty Meter Telescope International Observatory (TIO) selected Maunakea, in Hawaii, as the preferred site to build and operate TMT. 

Although the project won a series of approvals from Hawaii, including a permit to build on conservation land in 2011. Many protests disrupted a groundbreaking and Hawaiian blessing ceremony at the site in 2014. After that, the protests intensified, reports HuffPost

Construction stopped in April 2015 at the site after 31 protesters were arrested for blocking construction. A second attempt to restart construction a few months later ended with more arrests and crews retreating when they encountered large boulders in the road.

However, in December 2015, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that the state’s permitting process was flawed, and the State Board of Land and Natural Resources was ordered to re-do the permit process.

Construction is set to begin for Hawaii's controversial giant telescope on sacred peak of Mauna Kea

The TMT features 30 meter-wide mirror lens which is three times larger than the most powerful telescope currently in existence. The observaroty will only be outmatched by the planned European Extremely Large Telescope, which will boast a 39.9 meter-wide mirror when built.

Previously, Canada donated $243.5 million to build a giant telescope observatory in Hawaii but later, Canada's involvement in the telescope was put in danger when funding for the project was left out of the federal budget. Now, a group of universities in California and Canada form the telescope company, with partners from China, India and Japan. In addition, as the TMT's Site Location Report shows, Canada is still involved in partnership with the TMT. 

TMT is working with the University and relevant state and county agencies to determine an appropriate start date for construction. During a press conference announcing the NTP, Governor David Ige, Attorney General Clare Connors, DLNR Chair Suzanne Case and UH President David Lassner emphasized the need for stewardship, safety and security during construction.

All images courtesy of TMT International Observatory

> via TMT International Observatory