On August 10 and November 6, two cables that held the 900-ton telescope on a 305-meter-diameter satellite dish broke.
Engineers worry that other cables could also break at any time, making any repair attempt excessively dangerous.
The telescope is one of the largest in the world and has been a key tool for many astronomical discoveries.
The foundation “prioritizes the safety of workers, Arecibo Observatory staff and visitors, which makes this decision necessary, albeit unfortunate,” said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan.
Messages of sadness at the news were spread on Twitter by both professional and amateur astronomers who have used the telescope for their work observing the cosmos for decades.
“More than a telescope, Arecibo is the reason I’m even in astronomy“local astronomer Kevin Ortiz Ceballos wrote on Twitter.
Karen Masters, a professor of astrophysics at Haverford College in Pennsylvania, posted a photo of herself and her young daughter near the antenna in 2008 and said she was “heartbroken and disappointed.”
An action scene from the James Bond movie “GoldenEye” takes place over the telescope, and in the movie “Contact” an astronomer played by Jodie Foster uses the observatory in her search for extraterrestrial signals.
The engineering firm that examined the structure concluded that the remaining cables were possibly weaker than expected and recommended a controlled demolition, which the foundation agreed to.