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Thirty Meter Telescope developer aiming for completion in 2024

    This artist’s rendering made available by TMT Observatory Corp. shows the proposed Thirty Meter Telescope.

HILO » Despite legal challenges and a halt in construction, TMT International Observatory says it still expects the Thirty Meter Telescope to be ready in 2024.

TMT board member Michael Bolte said design and production of telescope parts and structures have continued in the six months since protests halted land clearing at the construction site, The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported.

“Pretty much in all the partner countries activities are running full speed ahead,” he said.

Bolte said partners in Canada, China, India and Japan as well as the California Institute of Technology and the University of California are working on project parts in preparation for construction resuming, though it’s unclear when that will be.

“We have been patient,” Bolte said. “These are real issues in Hawaii. The protesters had the question mark about the state process. We don’t want to be pushy.”

He said parts of the telescope’s 30-meter-wide primary mirror have already been built, with the giant mirror’s 492 segments being produced in four countries. The segments have to be precise and some of the more difficult pieces are being manufactured first.

Much of the work is on a five- to eight-year timeline, which Bolte said is why other parts have not been delayed.

“The delays are pretty small in the big project timeline,” he said. “I don’t know when serious replanning would start. I hope we don’t get to that.”

Construction stopped in March when protesters first blocked workers from reaching the site below the summit.

The Supreme Court is considering a challenge to the project’s land use permit. If the court were to reject the permit on the grounds that TMT violated the due process of opponents, the project would have to seek approval from the state’s Board of Land and Natural Resources again.

Bolte says the TMT board would probably continue to pursue the project even if the challenge is upheld.

“I think we’re going to get through all these challenges on Mauna Kea, build this, and this is going to be one of the most productive scientific facilities of this century.”

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