The giant space telescope where Sean Bean’s villainous James Bond character Alec Trevelyan famously plunged to his death in GoldenEye is set to close down, ending 57 years of service as an astronomical conduit, film set and tourist site.
The US National Science Foundation announced on Thursday that it would close down the 305-metre reflector dish at Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Observatory after it suffered two destructive mishaps in recent months.
In August, one of its supportive cables slipped loose from its socket, falling and gashing a 30 metre hole in the telescope. Another cable then broke earlier this month, tearing a second hole.
Engineers have not yet determined the cause of the initial cable’s failure, a NSF spokesperson said, but as the repairs required could not be done safely, a controlled demolition will be undertaken instead.
Nestled in the humid forests of Arecibo, the Puerto Rican observatory’s vast structure had been used by scientists and astronomers around the world for decades to analyze distant planets, find potentially hazardous asteroids and hunt for signatures of extraterrestrial life.
The telescope was instrumental in detecting the near-Earth asteroid Bennu in 1999, which laid the groundwork for NASA to send a robotic probe there to collect and eventually return its first asteroid dirt sample some two decades later.
It has also been used in a number of films and is considered one of Puerto Rico’s main tourist attractions, drawing some 90,000 visitors a year.