November 4, 2003
NASA To Prepare Environmental Impact Statement For Hawaii Project
NASA today announced it will prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Outrigger Telescope Project, a proposal to install four-to-six 1.8-meter telescopes at the W.M. Keck Observatory site on Mauna Kea, Hawaii.
NASA's Environmental Assessment (EA) for the project was challenged last year in a federal lawsuit filed by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA), an agency of the state of Hawaii. In July, the court ruled a portion of the EA called cumulative impacts analysis was inadequate, and ordered NASA to prepare a new EA. The court expressly declined to require NASA to complete an EIS.
Notwithstanding the court's order, however, NASA has decided to prepare a full EIS, in recognition of the concerns and feelings expressed by members and representatives of the Native Hawaiian community. NASA will work with OHA over the next several months to ensure the concerns of the Native Hawaiian community are addressed in the EIS. A formal public scoping process, including public meetings, will begin later this year.
The Outrigger Telescope Project is part of NASA's Astronomical Search for Origins science theme. The smaller telescopes, arrayed around the large 10-meter Keck telescopes, would be able to combine the light they gather from distant objects in the universe with light from the larger telescopes, using a technique called interferometry, producing images of far greater resolution than possible using the 10-meter telescopes alone.
The Outrigger project would serve as a test for future interferometer systems in space. Such space systems would have the resolving power to search for Earth-like planets around nearby stars.
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