[00:00.00]Hurricane Maria severely damaged Puerto Rico’s electricity and communications systems.
[00:08.31]Millions of people there are without power, water or food.
[00:14.66]The storm also caused damage to a well-known scientific tool in the U.S. territory – the Arecibo Observatory.
[00:27.14]Until last year, it was the largest single telescope of its kind in the world.
[00:35.71]Many of the observatory’s instruments appear to be unharmed.
[00:41.02]Arecibo Deputy Director Joan Schmelz called that “a thing to be thankful for” in an interview with the Associated Press.
[00:53.84]But a large antenna used to study the Earth’s upper atmosphere broke during the storm, the AP reported.
[01:04.03]Damage to the observatory is estimated to be in the millions of dollars.
[01:10.10]The observatory is home to the Arecibo radio telescope, a 305-meter- wide dish.
[01:21.82]It collects radio waves and focuses them onto scientific instruments that measure and process them.
[01:31.42]The instruments are suspended above the dish on towers over 80 meters high.
[01:40.22]During the storm, a small group of researchers remained at the observatory.
[01:47.16]They stayed in its concrete buildings.
[01:51.40]They had some food and water, but, like most in Puerto Rico, were cut off from the rest of the world.
[02:00.14]Perhaps not surprisingly, the first people that the researchers were able to contact after the storm were amateur radio operators.
[02:12.35]The storm damage threatens the telescope’s future in several ways.
[02:19.01]It is supported by the National Science Foundation, or NSF, in Alexandria, Virginia, as well as the U.S. space agency, NASA.
[02:31.37]Funding limitations and the desire to build and operate newer telescopes has made the NSF think about cutting its support for older telescopes.
[02:44.86]Arecibo could face closure if money cannot be found to repair it and to continue operations.
[02:54.79]The Arecibo radio telescope has been involved in well-known scientific research since first being used in the 1960s.
[03:07.06]It was used to find an unusual kind of star system, a binary pulsar, in 1967.
[03:16.31]The discovery received a Nobel Prize in 1974.
[03:23.46]The telescope can be used to study radio signals coming from space.
[03:30.21]It also can send out radio waves as radar.
[03:36.25]Radar can be used to study conditions in the Earth’s atmosphere and detect asteroids that pass dangerously close to Earth.
[03:48.11]The huge dish was also part of the SETI project, an effort to search for signs of extraterrestrial life.
[03:58.25]The Arecibo telescope was surpassed in size last July by the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope in Guizhou, China.
[04:12.86]Hurricane Maria, a category four storm, left most of Puerto Rico’s 3.4 million U.S. citizens without power or basic necessities.
[04:27.17]Telephone communications were nearly wiped out, as the storm destroyed cell phone towers.
[04:35.58]The observatory is expected to be closed for some time because of the damage.
[04:43.23]Scientists may be able to carry out some kinds of observations soon, but others will not be possible for a long time.
[04:54.78]James Ulvestad is acting director for NSF’s math and physics directorate.
[05:03.23]He said research, like bouncing radar off of other planets, requires a lot of power from the island’s electricity grid, which was severely damaged by the hurricane.
[05:18.77]The recovery response has been slow, as supplies need to be flown in or shipped to the island.
[05:29.02]President Donald Trump has promised the island aid.
[05:33.84]Damage is estimated to be in the billions of dollars.
[05:39.07]Meanwhile, workers with the Federal Emergency Management Agency are trying to set up aid centers across the U.S. territory.
[05:50.79]Puerto Rico’s government is also burdened by tens of billions of dollars in debt that it is unable to pay.
[06:01.35]The island is seeking protection from its creditors in the biggest government bankruptcy in U.S. history.
[06:10.62]I’m Mario Ritter.