Presentation #137.01 in the session Arce Plenary Lecture.
On December 1, 2020, the instrument-carrying platform of the 305-m radio/radar telescope at the Arecibo Observatory collapsed, depriving the scientific community of an invaluable, multipurpose instrument for the foreseeable future. This facility had been making groundbreaking scientific contributions to the fields of astronomy, planetary, and atmospheric sciences right up to the collapse. It was also the centerpiece of an extensive and unique public outreach and science education effort that inspired thousands in Puerto Rico, the United States, and the world to pursue careers in science and engineering. Over the last few years, the Arecibo Observatory had secured funding for new instruments, research, and education programs — investments that put the observatory on track to continue conducting cutting-edge science, unparalleled planetary defense work, and impactful STEAM education for many years to come. I will discuss how the loss of this unique facility has affected the United States’ and the world’s scientific enterprise, and how a new (and improved) Arecibo Observatory is crucial for achieving key scientific challenges in planetary science, aeronomy, and astrophysics over the next decade.