James Bond Movie GoldenEye's Giant Telescope Is Being Shut Down

The Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico is being decommissioned after two accidents this year.


James Bond has fought villains in many iconic locations around the world over the years, from the Giza Pyramids to the Eiffel Tower. One of the most memorable showdowns took place at the end of 1996's GoldenEye, in which Pierce Brosnan's Bond took on Alec Trevelyan, played by Sean Bean, on the massive Arecibo space telescope deep in the Puerto Rican jungle. Sadly, it's now been reported that the telescope and observatory will be shut down after 57 years.

The decision to decommission the Arecibo Observatory by the National Science Foundation, the US agency responsible for it, follows two major accidents in the past few months. Operations were initially halted in August when a supporting cable became loose and fell onto the telescope's reflector dish, creating a 30-metre hole in the 305m-wide surface. A second cable broke this month, making another hole and damaging nearby cables.

As a result, the NSF has decided to start a "controlled decommissioning" of the observatory. In a statement, NSF director Sethuraman Panchanathan said, "NSF prioritizes the safety of workers, Arecibo Observatory's staff and visitors, which makes this decision necessary, although unfortunate. For nearly six decades, the Arecibo Observatory has served as a beacon for breakthrough science and what a partnership with a community can look like. While this is a profound change, we will be looking for ways to assist the scientific community and maintain that strong relationship with the people of Puerto Rico."

As well as GoldenEye, the Arecibo observatory featured in the 1997 sci-fi drama Contact, which starred Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey. In real life, the telescope helped with many scientific breakthroughs, such as detecting the near-Earth asteroid Bennu in 1999. This led NASA to send a robotic space probe there in 2018 to collect the first-ever asteroid dirt sample. The probe is expected to return in 2023.

The next Bond movie is set to theaters in April 2021. No Time To Die was originally scheduled for release in April this year, but like most big movies in 2020 has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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