A view of the area from the observatory

The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, and Your Tower Claim

by Steve Miller, Technical Consultant

December 14, 2021

“Listening to the stars”


In 2014, I was fortunate enough to visit the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center, known to astronomers and the general public as the Arecibo Observatory.  Arecibo is a radio telescope located in Puerto Rico, and was the first of its kind, using a giant 1000 ft. reflector dish to collect the faintest signals from our own galaxy and others.   You might recognize it: Arecibo was featured in several films, including Carl Sagan’s Contact and 007 Goldeneye.


Arecibo was transferred to the National Science Foundation from the Department of Defense in 1969, and went on to give astronomers and physicists a better understanding of stars, black holes, other galaxies, and near-earth asteroids. Eventually Arecibo was used in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, or “SETI,” by listening for repeating radio patterns.


In 1974, Arecibo was used to send the most powerful broadcast in history into space. The message was intended for any extraterrestrial intelligence to receive, and the encoded message showed the design of Arecibo’s dish, the basics of human DNA, and Earth’s location in the solar system.


Sadly, in early 2020, Arecibo’s giant 900-ton instrument platform collapsed, sending it straight down into the dish (not unlike that climactic scene in 007 Goldeneye). Thankfully in the real-life version of the collapse, no one was hurt. Video of the event shows the failure of a suspension cable attaching the platform to one of the guy wire towers. NASA investigated the collapse, but most of us knew what had occurred: the suspension cables were very old, and despite the existence of auxiliary cables, the collapse essentially occurred due to lack of maintenance and regular inspection of potential points of failure. Arecibo suffered from lack of funding, and badly needed an overhaul to remain safe and functioning before its eventual demise.


“I like ETs, but what does this have to do with my tower claim?”


Arecibo’s suspension hardware was similar to the guy wires and anchors which support many broadcast towers. Failure of a single guy wire can take down even the largest towers. As claims consultants, we have seen maintenance issues and wear-and-tear of guy wire systems, which have led to tower collapse and large losses.


Loss Solutions Group can help determine cause of loss in tower collapse claims, as well as reparability and ACV/RCV of the radio and TV antennas residing on these towers from different types of damage, including lightning and high winds.


Steve Miller has industry experience in broadcast operations and tower site management, where he has planned and overseen dozens of tower and antenna projects in his career.  


Please contact Steve Miller, LSG Technical Consultant, with questions or to discuss claims involving broadcast equipment losses at 866.899.8756 ext. 733 or smiller@losssolutionsgroup.com.  

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