HONOLULU – The National Science Foundation has launched an informal outreach to Hawaii about possible funding efforts for the stalled Thirty Meter Telescope project.
The effort by the nation’s top funder of basic research could lead to a huge influx of cash for the astronomy project on Mauna Kea with an estimated cost of $2.4 billion, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Thursday.
Funding efforts could also trigger a regulatory process adding two years or more to a construction timeline that is far behind schedule. The project recently announced the start of construction was delayed until spring.
The foundation said in a statement it plans to reach out to “stakeholders, including Native Hawaiians,” to understand their viewpoints.
Protesters blocked the 6.27-mile (10-kilometer) access road to the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii's tallest mountain, in a demonstration against the project from July through December 2019. Telescope opponents said the project would desecrate land considered sacred by some Native Hawaiians.
The foundation said its outreach would serve as a precursor to a formal federal environmental review process.
The Thirty Meter Telescope project has teamed with the Giant Magellan Telescope planned in Chile and the U.S. National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory to propose the U.S. Extremely Large Telescope Program.
The partnership, which is partly an effort to obtain additional funding, proposes to offer U.S. astronomers complete viewing coverage of the skies in the Northern and Southern hemispheres.