The Arecibo Observatory Survey Salvage Committee Report


On December 1, 2020, the 57 year old 305-meter Arecibo Telescope structure collapsed after a series of failures of the supporting cables. The suspended platform struck the ground and the side of the natural depression in which it was constructed, with most of the scientific instruments housed beneath the azimuth arm badly damaged. The University of Central Florida (UCF) and the US National Science Foundation (NSF) chartered the Arecibo Observatory Survey Salvage Committee (AOSSC) to work with the Observatory management and the contractor managing the emergency cleanup activities to identify possible items of historic significance that could be found within the wreckage, to suggest which large sections of the structural framework to retain, and to make initial recommendations about conservation, display, and educational outreach aspects of the retrieved material. The AOSSC developed a database of high-priority items for the search, and catalogued the actual pieces collected during the emergency cleanup. The debris removal was documented from site surveys and drone footage to provide a record of the process and where possible, the condition of the wreckage around the recovered artifacts. Final committee recommendations include the need for action to protect the artifacts from further damage or corrosion, distribution of historic and technical information about the instruments and structural elements to museums and universities, and formation of a follow-on group to consider the long-term preservation and educational potential of the recovered material.