MESSAGE FROM BOB KIRSHNER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
from TMT Insider Newsletter, Jan 2023
It has been more than six months since I started at the Thirty Meter Telescope. Despite many significant milestones, working with all of you, with our partners, our board, and funding agencies, it has gone by in a flash. As I said in May, “I am not taking this job because it is easy… We have a steep path ahead.”
We are climbing that path.
On the funding front, the National Science Foundation (NSF) is taking preliminary steps that are required for a funding decision. This month, they began conducting a Preliminary Design Review of our project, to be completed early next year. NSF has also initiated an important environmental and cultural review process in Hawai‘i. Because Maunakea is a special place of great significance to many in Hawai‘i, a thorough assessment of TMT’s effects on the mountain's cultural, biological, visual and geological resources is essential. The ongoing federal review will ensure the community has the opportunity to share their views and to fully inform the NSF of the potential effects of the TMT Project.
In the last two years we have been taking a new direction and focused on improving our relations with the local community, especially Native Hawaiian communities. The State of Hawai‘i has created a new Mauna Kea Stewardship and Oversight Authority (MKSOA) that includes wide representation of stakeholders, including a representative of the Mauna Kea Observatories, representatives of Native Hawaiian communities and cultural practitioners. Our task in the coming months and years will be to work in a constructive way with MKSOA.
Our Project Manager Fengchuan Liu moved to Hilo in June of 2021 and has been listening to both supporters and past opponents to build genuine trust. He is listening to learn how the science community can build long-term, genuine and respectful relationships with the indigenous people, culture, and lands.
We are extremely fortunate to have Dr. Yuko Kakazu and Leinani Lozi joining our Education and Outreach team in Hilo. They are passionate about indigenous culture, working with the community, tutoring students, giving presentations on the wonders of astronomy, providing hands-on learning opportunities, and partnering with community organizations to create programs that broaden learning opportunities and career development for all children in Hawai‘i. Some of their recent activities were featured in a recent article in Physics Today headlined, “Giant telescopes take small but significant steps toward realization.”
We look forward to continuing our ascent, creating a model for astronomy that upholds the values of respect, collaboration, and inclusion. We understand that building relationships in Hawai‘i will take time. We remain grateful to our supporters and we welcome the opportunity to listen to others so we can become the best partner possible with communities in Hawai‘i.
S: In Hawaii, new state panel stirs hope for giant telescope
PHYSICS TODAY ARTICLE: “A year ago I would have been pessimistic….” …but … Recent developments make John O’Meara “optimistic about astronomy on Mauna Kea whether or not TMT is part of it.”