Why did the Arecibo radio telescope collapse? It’s a simple question that has a complicated answer. To help find out, we’re conducting full-size tests, with the help of LPI (a SOCOTEC Company) and Lehigh University, of the actual Arecibo cables.
During our investigation, we found that some cables that held up the telescope had slipped out of their sockets from one-half inch to two inches or more. Why did the slip occur, and why had some slipped much more than others? This testing, using the cables and sockets recovered from Arecibo, focuses on how the cable is installed in its socket. In this mock-up, we will apply many cycles of tension/release to the cable to simulate the stress it underwent when the telescope was in use.
As with many kinds of testing, one test rarely gives a definitive answer but points investigators in a direction of further inquiry to arrive at a most plausible conclusion.