SKA split unexpected: Pandor

2012-05-25 17:26

Cape Town - The decision to split the construction of the world's most powerful radio telescope between South Africa and Australia was "unexpected", Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor said on Friday.

South Africa would accept the compromise by the Square Kilometre Array's Site Advisory Committee (SSAC) "in the interest of science", she told reporters.

"A meeting of the members has decided to split the project, which is an unexpected decision given the search for a single site," Pandor said after being cheered by members of South Africa's SKA team.

"We had hoped the unambiguous recommendation of the SSAC would be accepted as the most sound scientific outcome.

Turning point in Africa

"We accept the compromise in the interest of science and as acknowledgement of the sterling work done by our scientists and the excellent SKA project team."

The decision marked a turning point in Africa as a destination for science and engineering, said Justin Jonas, associate director for science and engineering at the SKA South Africa Project.

"This does signal a new era in Africa. We must realise how big this is."

He said Africa would construct two of the three SKA receiver components, which was a major project

"Two thirds of the biggest instrument in the world is still the biggest instrument in the world," he said.

"The science that will come out of this is truly amazing.

Increase the costs

"The committee found that splitting the SKA didn't compromise science. It will increase the costs, but will not compromise science in any way."

Jonas hoped the project could now move "properly forward" and that the team could start "building stuff".

SKA board chairperson John Womersley said at press conference in Amsterdam earlier on Friday that a dual site approach had been decided on.

"We will be installing equipment in both Australia and South Africa and together they will form part of a global observatory," he said in comments quoted by French news agency AFP.

South Africa and Australia were competing to win the $2bn contract.


The SKA will be 50 times more sensitive than the current most powerful radio telescopes.

Scientists hope the SKA project will provide answers about the universe, such as how it started and why it is expanding.

Australia's core site will be the Mileura station, about 100km west of Meekathara in western Australia.

South Africa's main site will be outside Carnarvon in the Karoo.

Satellite dishes for the project will stretch across south and east Africa.

  • Dee - 2012-05-25 17:42

    Sincerest respect, congrats and thanks to you Naledi and team on a fine achievement. As a past project director, I'd be interested to know the 'split' of functions, and in particular, project accounting and fiscal control.

      Andrew - 2012-05-25 18:28

      As long as the Aussies behave themselves this should be a great joint-venture!!

      Dinonofopico - 2012-05-25 19:24

      i hope enviromentalists dont get in the way! I m ceartainly sure i will work the someday. Physics is the real science.

      kgomotso.radise - 2012-05-25 19:50

      Congrats are in order! Nonetheless maths & science in our country is a worry factor.

  • Just_my_opinion - 2012-05-25 17:55

    As Australia and SA are almost on opposite sides of the world, that means they can focus on a much greater area all at once. Great idea to split it to both SA and Australia!

      Denise - 2012-05-25 18:09

      I agree. Very savvy decision.

      Antin - 2012-05-25 18:40

      Just_my-opinion or Denise, I'm afraid I am too thick to follow your idea. Kindly, briefly explain it here. Or: why would it take the brains behind SKA this long to come up with it? Was the idea yours, theirs, or did you all work this out independently?

      Antin - 2012-05-26 01:05

      Just_my_opinion, Denise, Any answer yet?

      Antin - 2012-05-26 09:29

      OK, Just_writin_twak, kindly refrain from putting your nonsense here. FYI, the Australian site has the full set of low-frequency antennae, we have the two higher ones. The repective signal-receiving frequency ranges can be and are fully separated. And even if they were not, your idea makes no sense anyway! Denise, advice: be careful what idiots you latch onto.

      Antin - 2012-05-26 09:50

      Just_talking_shyte got 17 thumbs-up with his completely unfounded crap of a thumb-suck? Bwaahaaahaaa.

  • Andrhe - 2012-05-25 17:59

    What a major blow for this country...!!!

  • hellodanie - 2012-05-25 18:23

    Well done SA!

  • Afrika - 2012-05-25 18:31

    We have fine scientists in this country and I truly believe they will have done a sterling job split as it is! It's great winning staff, but we must concede that we are bound to lose sometime. This is even not a total loss, but we must look broader than the tender moneys but the great opportunity for scientific knowledge building which is boundless - a grea plus for us as a nation for our children and our future! Half a loaf is better than no bread!! We've got to first build plane South Africa before we fly it!

      Antin - 2012-05-26 08:51

      "we must look broader than the tender moneys"? Oh thank you for confirming THAT! (How do some people think?) And it's more than "half a loaf" -more like 70% of it. Yes this is a good thing for SA! (And just about as far removed from local crap-politics as it can get.)

  • mmenzisco - 2012-05-25 19:03

    Indeed it was unexpected decision. Nevertheless, I think two is better than one, iff they will able to work together as one team. It's things like this that make me happy for our country. It is an achievement.

  • Arnold - 2012-05-25 19:17

    Unexpected..NO, to keep us on our toes..YES.Remember FIFA and SWC 2010!! the only reason we pulled it off was an overseeing body. Nevertheless, great that we actually get to share the spoils, we have great scientists, not so great leaders.

      bfvillet - 2012-05-25 20:04

      fifa does the wc the same everwhere the same will happen in brazil take some pride in SA the world is starting to back us so lets back ourselves

      Antin - 2012-05-26 09:02

      "not so great leaders"? Who are they? I thought we only had clueless, self-serving thieves.

      SaleƩ Sithwell - 2012-05-26 13:03

      The overseeing body oversees ALL Fifa world cups.

  • pages:
  • 1