The 1.47-billion dollar Thirty Metre Telescope (TMT) International Observatory, which the largest telescope project in the world, may be set up in India, according to a report in a leading national daily. The report further states that the TMT board has short-listed Hanle in Ladakh as a prospective site for the project. The project has been facing major hurdles in Mauna Kea, Hawaii, which is the first choice.
According to the report, an international team is likely to visit Ladakh in soon. The Supreme Court of Hawaii had in December 2015 cancelled the permit issued to TMT to construct the International Observatory after it was claimed that the plot in Mauna Kea was sacred.
As the Hawaiian authorities work towards re-issual of permit, the TMT Board is looking for alternatives to avoid delay.
India is already contributing to the software of TMT apart from building edge sensors, actuators and system support assemblies.
"Given the enormous investment and potential challenges ahead, it is necessary to also carry out a review of alternate sites," Henry Yang, chair of the TMT International Observatory Board, said in a statement after a meeting on February 11, 2016.
TMT India programme director B Eswar Reddy told the daily that the board has decided on two prospective sites – Hanle and Chile after the February meeting.
"Yes, it was unexpected turn for the project which got delayed due to the decision of the Hawaiian supreme court. Meanwhile, the project is also looking for prospective sites both in northern and southern hemispheres, including Hanle," he was quoted as saying. It is expected that India will invest $212 million in the project.
"However, a lot of technical works (including in India) are progressing well in the partner countries. We expect all the systems to be ready and technical risks retired by the time we resolve the issue of site... In India too, industries are working on prototype development and some are qualified for production and some are still working on," Reddy was quoted as saying.