(BIVN) – On May 16th, the newly formed Maunakea Stewardship and Oversight Authority got an update on the process to decommission the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory.
“The CSO continues to finalize the design of the cradle that they have to build to transport their mirror to Kawaihae, and then eventually to Chile,” reported Greg Chun, the executive director of Maunakea Stewardship at the University of Hawaiʻi.
“It’s complicated, because the cradle needs to tilt on the flatbed truck as it descends” the steep Maunakea Access Road, Chun said.
The cradle “needs to tilt to be able to pass through the switchbacks and some of the narrower sections of the access road, so the engineering of the cradle itself is taking some time,” Chun said. “Longer than they thought.”
“The target date, right now, for removing the mirror is late June, early July,” Chun said. “They actually have to do a dry run with the cradle down to Kawaihae – which is a two-day process itself – before they can actually do the the actual movement.”
“Deconstruction of the facility itself would start after that the mirror has been removed,” Chun said.
The Maunakea Stewardship authority is setting up a permitted interaction group, or PIG, to monitor the CSO decommissioning.
“The one question I had, which (UH-Hilo) Chancellor (Bonnie) Irwin has already brought up, is sort of the role of the decommissioning PIG that folks have now set up,” Chun commented. “I think it probably would be best to have some conversations with the PIG as to how they are envisioning wanting to capture these lessons learned as we go forward.”
The Caltech Submillimeter Observatory operated on the summit of Maunakea from 1987 to 2015 and was a leading facility for astronomical research and instrumentation development. The observatory is said to have played a foundational role in submillimeter astronomy, which is the study of light emitted by atoms, molecules, and dust grains in the interstellar space where stars and planets form.
The observatory belongs to the California Institute of Technology, a private science and engineering Institute located in Pasadena, California.