SA ideal for SKA - Derek Hanekom

2011-12-13 22:43

Kimberley - South Africa is well-placed to host the world's largest telescope because it would cost cheaper, according to the deputy science minister.

South Africa is competing with Australia to win the contract for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), a multi-billion dollar instrument that will be 50 times more sensitive than today's most powerful radio telescopes.

The bid will be decided by February or March 2012, but the global economic crisis might give SA an advantage, said deputy science minister Derek Hanekom on a flight to the Karoo.

"The cost will probably escalate to $2bn" and funding countries were finding themselves stretched to come up with the cash, he told journalists.

"It's a big one, so that's why South Africa is a good place."


If SA wins the bidding, engineers will connect antennas in the arid Karoo region by remote link to a network of dishes stretching across southern and eastern Africa and as far away as Ghana.

Australia's bid puts the core site at Mileura station, about 100km west of Meekathara in western Australia. Other antennas would be distributed across Australia and New Zealand.

The SKA steering committee, which represents a consortium of 17 countries involved in the project, is expected to make the final decision.

But cheaper labour, construction and electricity also gave the country an advantage over Australia, said Justin Jonas, the engineer and astronomer who heads the project in the country.

"To go on site is also cheaper, you need just one hour to fly there [from Cape Town]. West Australia has a lot of mines and this is making cost of life very expensive."

Scientists hope the SKA, a massive new radio telescope linking over 3 000 antenna dishes, will shed new light on fundamental questions about the universe, including how it began, why it's expanding and whether it contains life beyond our planet.

  • africanwolf - 2011-12-14 00:01

    It will be stolen :)

      Squeegee - 2011-12-14 06:41

      Cheaper electricity? So they get a great deal and the public will again pick up the bill.

  • TamaraSays - 2011-12-14 01:23

    Take it elsewhere. SA is a ticking timebomb, and the ANC has done nothing to remove the fuse. Bad, bad plan!

  • Shaun - 2011-12-14 05:36

    It would COST cheaper?? You probably meant 'It would BE cheaper?'

  • Garth - 2011-12-14 07:11

    `. . . because it would cost cheaper, according . . .' and someone received money to write this? `. . . this is making cost of life very expensive."' and this?

  • Pippa - 2011-12-14 07:14

    It would COST cheaper? As cheap as the journalist who wrote this and the sub-editor who assumedly didn't check it?

  • Tc - 2011-12-14 07:26

    Is there anybody that still believes anything that the treacherous, lying Derek Hanekom says?

  • Larry - 2011-12-14 08:02

    "Would Cost Cheaper". Hmmm.

  • Jane - 2011-12-14 08:22

    What kind of English is this? How can something "cost cheaper"? It is either going to "cost more" or "cost less" - never "cost cheaper"? Shame on the deputy science minister. And this horrific English is followed by those of Justin Jonas. FYI Justin, it is always Western - not West - Australia. Lastly,one always refers to "the cost of living" - never "the cost of life [being] very expensive"; "life" instead of "living" gives the phrase a completely different meaning.

  • poaul - 2011-12-14 08:57

    The quote would probably be cheaper. Then the tender would be awarded to a BEE company that can't deliver and it would have to be re-awarded, or severely subcontracted, making it cost probably double the initial quote. That is the way of South Afica...

      Andries - 2011-12-14 09:24

      Poaul, The designers and builders are situated in Techno Park, Stellenbosch. A team of world leaders in the field of antenna feed control. They do with seven specialists the same amount of work and at a higher level than their US or European counterparts do with 15. Even if Australia gets the main contract guess who will be sub contracted to build their antennae feeds and controls? These guys are the best. The biggest threat is not our engineers but those at top government level who embarrass us all in their dealings with experts and financiers of international stature. Durban was an example last week.

      StirMonger - 2011-12-14 09:52

      Let's hope they can find a project manager who understands contract management and delivery agreements.

      poaul - 2011-12-14 10:16

      @Andries: You seem to be a far better reporter than the guy that wrote the article. Thank you for the insights.

  • ANDYK8LEY - 2011-12-14 09:12

    Whoever wrote this story should learn to write in propper english. "Cost cheaper!

  • Tshepo - 2011-12-14 11:22

    Ayasaba amagwala!! Y'all are scared that we're going to whip your Aussie overlords's punk asses yet again. The aussie is no match for a South African, we're smarter, more refined, better mannered and more innovative. That's why we're going to win the SKA and Aussie will be left cursing...

  • ludlowdj - 2011-12-14 12:56

    As a South African, I hope Australia gets the contract, South Africa most certainly doesn't deserve this honour. It would be a terrible shame if billions were spent on building this array only to have the ANC push through and realize its dreams of a Zim style dictatorship.

  • Clarissa - 2011-12-14 15:50


  • terry.pilfold - 2012-02-15 18:24

    Derek, you have the wrong hymn sheet. Don't tell the world how good we are for such a project; just use the Oz logic and tell everyone why Oz if NOT the place to build it! Granddad

  • pages:
  • 1