Status of the ALMA recovery process
The pandemic situation in Chile is remaining stable and over the past few weeks ALMA staff have been moving forward with ALMA’s plan to recover the telescope array in the Atacama, as announced on October 1st, 2020.
At this stage, the news is positive. The first phase of the plan – preparing the ALMA Operations Support Facility (OSF) at 2900 meters and returning a limited number of staff and contractors to staying on site at the OSF – is well underway and on track thanks to the hard work and dedication of the ALMA staff. Readiness for the next phase – the beginning of the process of restarting the Array Operations Site (AOS) at 5000 meters – is currently being assessed. As always, the top priority throughout this process is the health and safety of all our staff, who are working within an extensive set of enhanced safety protocols.
However, the road to recovery of operations – and ultimately science observations – will be long, and it remains difficult to predict the exact timeline as it depends on many factors. If the recovery continues according to plan, January 2021 is the earliest there may be enough functional antennas and cooled receivers to attempt the first science test observations, followed by the regular February maintenance period. March 2021 thus remains the earliest it may be possible to attempt regular science operations.