Puerto Rico's gigantic Arecibo Observatory – the world's second-largest radio telescope – collapsed today in spectacular fashion.
The facility was built by the U.S. Defense Department 57 years ago and has been crucial in astronomical studies for scientists around the globe. It is managed by the University of Central Florida and receives 90,000 visitors a year.
This month, the U.S. National Science Foundation announced that the facility would be closed and demolished after two cables supporting the observatory's 900-ton receiver platform snapped. Scientists had been petitioning for a reversal of the decision, citing its importance in studying distant planetary bodies, asteroids on potential collision courses with Earth, and other groundbreaking research.
That is until the rest of the cable system failed and the massive receiver platform plummeted 400 feet into the reflector dish below.
"It sounded like a rumble. I knew exactly what it was," said senior research associate Jonathan Friedman, who saw the aftermath firsthand. "I was screaming. Personally, I was out of control.... I don't have words to express it. It's a very deep, terrible feeling."
If you think this whole thing sounds familiar, that's because it happened previously about 25 years ago, albeit on the silver screen. In addition to the 1997 film Contact, the Arecibo Observatory was the setting of an evil lair in the iconic James Bond film GoldenEye.
Sean Bean played former MI6 agent and epic baddie Alec Trevelyn against Pierce Brosnan's 007. At the end of the film, Bean's character aimed to use the satellite dish to activate the GoldenEye space laser to destroy London.
Of course, good old James Bond has a nasty habit of getting in the way. Bond's accomplice managed to hack into said space laser and program it to burn up in atmospheric reentry while Bond himself rigged the receiver array to explode.
An epic duel followed, after which Bond (of course) got the upper hand.
What followed was one of the most epic villain deaths in all of cinema history.
"For England, James?" asks Trevelyn, dangling in Bond's hands.
007 aptly responds: "No, for me."
Trevelyn then falls 400 feet and somehow survives (LOL physics) long enough to watch Bond blow up the receiver platform and have 900 tons of flaming metal fall on top of him.
The collapse of the dish now gives China an even greater advantage in the study of space, having surpassed the Arecibo Observatory with a 500-meter dish built in 2016.