Maunakea Access & Gemini North Shutdown
On July 15th, the Maunakea Access Road was blocked by protestors seeking to prevent Thirty Meter Telescope construction equipment from moving to the Maunakea Astronomy Precinct. This quickly precipitated a protracted stoppage of all observing as observatories assessed the safety and reliability of access to the summit to be inconsistent with normal operations. By August 12th, we had received assurances of support from Law Enforcement and statements from the protestors of their intent to allow access for staff of the existing observatories. Combined with some improvements made to the “spur road” (a short segment of the old Saddle Road and a portion of a lava field) via which we now have to access the mountain, we returned to work on the planned maintenance shutdown (excluding, as we indicated in the last newscast, coating of the primary mirror). The shutdown was completed on August 30th as planned, allowing a resumption of night-time observing and enabling the TEXES run as scheduled (see previous story). Access to the mountain remains intermittently compromised by conditions on the spur road in particular, but for now we are proceeding with operations.