The nonprofit TMT Observatory Corporation was founded in June 2003 by its partners: the Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy (ACURA), the University of California (UC), and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). The TMT project was born out of the merging of three earlier large-telescope projects: CELT, the California Extremely Large Telescope, which was a partnership between Caltech and UC; VLOT, the Very Large Optical Telescope, led by ACURA; and GSMT, the Giant Segmented Mirror Telescope, which was a partnership between the National Optical Astronomical Observatory (NOAO) and the Gemini Observatory. AURA participated in TMT discussions at the early phase.
In April 2005, the TMT partners committed $17.5 million to the project office. Also that month, the TMT board appointed a project manager and began the formal design and development of the observatory, the telescope, and its instruments.
In March 2009, TMT successfully completed its five-year Design Development Phase (DDP) with $77.1 million of funding provided by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy, and the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy. On April 1, 2009, TMT commenced its Early Construction Phase with the initial $30 million of a $200 million commitment by the Moore Foundation toward the further development and construction of the project. Matching gifts from the California Institute of Technology and the University of California bring the total to $300 million.
State of Hawaii Land Board Approves Comprehensive Management Plan for Maunakea
Seven Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) Meetings are held (Hawaii Island: 6/16, 6/17, 6/18, 6/22, 6/23, 6/24 and Oahu: 6/25)
TMT Board of Directors Selects Maunakea as Preferred Site
Maunakea Management Board Approves TMT Project State of Hawaii Governor Approves TMT Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)
In May 2010, TMT completed an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), after 14 community meetings, and it was signed by the Governor of Hawaii. The Cultural Impact Statement, as key part of the document, included consultations with Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners. No groups or individuals challenged the contents or process of this important and required document.
University of Hawaii Board of Regents Approves TMT Project
Maunakea Management Board Approves Conservation District Use Permit Application State of Hawaii Land Board Accepts Conservation District Use Permit (CDUP) Application
In February 2011, the Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources approved the Conservation District Use Permit (CDUP) for the TMT project after several very well attended public hearings.
Five TMT CDUP Contested Case Hearings (public) are held (8/14, 8/15, 8/17, 8/18 and 8/25)
State of Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources issues CDUP (4/12)
Hearings Officer Paul Aoki issues a 124-page ruling concluding that TMT is consistent with the purpose of the Conservation District and should be granted its Conservation District Use Permit (CDUP)
State of Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources hears oral arguments regarding the CDUP application (2/12)
In April 2013, the Hawaiian Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) granted a permit to Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) project to build and operate the next-generation observatory on Mauna Kea.
Judge Nakamura, Third Circuit Court, issues Final Judgment affirming State of Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources’ Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Decision and Order Granting Conservation District Use Permit for the TMT at the Maunakea Science Reserve dated April 12, 2013 (5/5)
On May 6, 2014, the TMT International Observatory LLC (TIO) was formed with founding Members: The California Institute of Technology (Caltech) The National Institutes of Natural Sciences (Japan) The National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Science (China) The Regents of the University of California (UC) The goal of TIO is to design, develop, build and operate the Thirty Meter Telescope. Also in May 2014, the Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy (ACURA) and Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA) joined as Associates and continued to be active in the TMT Project with in-kind contributions. The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) also joined as an Associate.
After Three Public Hearings, the State of Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources votes to approve the sublease with the University of Hawaii
On October 7, 2014, a ground blessing ceremony for the TMT site was conducted. TMT is in the construction phase on-site in Hawaii and around the world with numerous activities ongoing with the TMT International Observatory partners.
The Hawaii State Department of Land and Natural Resources issues TMT a Notice to Proceed
In March 2015, the Hawaii State Department of Land and Natural Resources issues TMT a Notice To Proceed regarding project construction on Maunakea.
In May 2015, after imposing a temporary stand-down on TMT construction, Hawaii Governor David Ige releases a 10-point plan to help foster better stewardship of Maunakea. One part of the governor’s plan is to decommission older telescopes on the mountain to clear the way for newer telescopes like TMT.
The Supreme Court hears oral arguments in a case against the State and University of Hawaii at Hilo related to the CDUP
In December 2015, the Hawaii Supreme Court revokes the state Conservation District Use Permit required for TMT construction, deciding that the state’s permitting process was flawed. The case is eventually remanded back to the State Board of Land and Natural Resources to re-do the permit application process.
On December 2, 2015, the Hawaii Supreme Court invalidates the Conservation District Use Permit issued by the Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) to the University of Hawaii - Hilo to build TMT on Maunakea.
The Third Circuit Court transfers the second Conservation District Use Permit (CDUP) contested case hearing to the State of Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources. The TMT International Observatory Board of Governors announces that while Hawaii remains their first choice for the location of TMT, a review of alternate sites will be carried out while the second CDUP contested case takes its course.
In October 20, 2016 The Contested Case hearing began in Hilo.
In December 15, 2016 Third Circuit Court Judge Nakamura ruled on an appeal filed by Kalani Flores to vacate the Board of Land and Natural Resource’s consent to the University of Hawaii’s sublease to the TMT International Observatory Board of Governors and require a separate contested case. The state is appealing the decision. How this will affect the timeline or schedule of our project is unclear, until we learn the outcome of the state's appeal or how the state land board will schedule an additional contested hearing on the matter.
The Evidentiary Hearings portion of the second Conservation District Use Permit (CDUP) Contested Case comes to a close after hearing 71 witnesses over 44 days.
The Hawaii State Supreme Court hears oral arguments related to the Consent to Sublease issue.
On March 29, 2017 TIO and Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias (IAC) signed a hosting agreement which defines how the alternative site will be available if Maunakea proves infeasible. The bilateral agreement governs the conditions for hosting TMT at Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos (ORM) on La Palma, its future operation and eventual demolition, removal and restoration of the site. Among the terms of the 75-year agreement are the right to construct and operate, the use of the land, access to infrastructure and common services, and headquarters facilities in La Palma and Tenerife.
State Hearings Officer and former Judge Riki May Amano releases a 305-page report recommending that a Conservation District Use Permit (CDUP) be issued to the University of Hawaii by the Board of Land and Natural Resources to allow construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Maunakea in Hawaii.
The State Land Board announces its decision to approve the Conservation District User Permit (CDUP) for TMT to be built on Maunakea.
TMT opponents challenge the new Conservation District Use Permit (CDUP) by filing an appeal with the Hawaii State Supreme Court.
The TMT International Observatory (TIO) Board of Governors defers a decision on whether to continue toward building the Thirty Meter Telescope in Hawaii, or to consider the alternative in the Canary Islands. A decision will be made on the planned location of the Thirty Meter Telescope as further progress is made in the legal and regulatory processes at both proposed sites.
The Hawaii State Supreme court hears oral arguments related to the Conservation District Use Permit.
The Hawaii Supreme Court issues its unanimous and favorable decision in the Consent to Sublease appeal reversing the decision of the lower court and finding that Kalani Flores was not entitled to a contested case hearing on BLNR’s Consent to the Sublease between TIO and the University. As a result, the sublease is valid.
The Hawaii Department of Land & Natural Resources issues a notice to proceed (NTP) to the University of Hawaii for the Thirty Meter Telescope on Maunakea. The NTP is a formal communication indicating that all pre-construction conditions and mitigation measures specifically required as a condition of the Conservation District Use Permit (CDUP) have been met. With the NTP, TMT can proceed with construction.