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Lassner: TMT is the Last

November 23, 2015, 2:09 PM HST (Updated November 23, 2015, 2:23 PM)
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The Thirty Meter Telescope is the University of Hawai’i’s last new area on the mountain where a telescope project will be contemplated or sought, according to a letter from University of Hawai’i President David Lassner.

Monday’s letter was sent to Department of Land and Natural Resources Chair Suzanne Case and states that TMT “shall constitute a legally binding commitment and may be regarded as a condition of the University of Hawai’i’s current lease(s) and of any lease renewal or extension proposed by the University.”

Earlier in the year, Governor David Ige announced a 10-point “Way Forward” plan that outlined future management of Mauna Kea.

In early June, UH President David Lassner and UH-Hilo Chancellor Donald Straney agreed with the governor’s stance on future management of the mountain held sacred to Native Hawaiians and agreed, among other management stances, that TMT would be the last new observatory site on Mauna Kea.

UH’s confirmed commitment of TMT as the last telescope on new areas of the mountain fulfills the second point of the governor’s plan.

Part three of Governor Ige’s plan,  identifying three telescopes that will be decommissioned and permanently removed before TMT begins operations,has already been set in motion.

It was announced in early June that California Institute of Technology would end operations of the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory in September. In April 2009, the university announced that the observatory would begin to dismantle the telescope in 2016, and that by 2018, the site would be returned to its natural state.

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Just a month later, UH-Hilo announced that the Hoku Ke’a would be decommissioned. The telescope was never operational. Hoku Ke’a’s decommissioning is set to begin in early 2016 and should be completed by 2018.

Most recently, UH announced that the UKIRT telescope, formerly known as the United Kingdom Infrared telescope, would be decommissioned. UH Hilo announced in October that the decommissioning process for the UKIRT would not get underway until the Caltech and Hoku Ke’a had completed their decommissioning processes.

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