Members of the SKA Organisation had their first general meeting yesterday, to look at the recommendations put forward by the site selection committee. Their conclusion? None. Instead, they’ve decided to form another working group, to look at how to get the greatest advantage from the various innovations and projects put forward by both candidates (Australia and South Africa). Which sounds to me like they want to have their cake and eat it. Despite the objections of both candidates, the suggestion has been made to share the site between them. This sounds a bit silly to me – how do you split a 3000km wide receiver array between two countries that are separated by ten thousand kilometers of ocean? I happen to agree with the site selection comittee that South Africa is the best place to build SKA, but losing to Australia won’t make for a worse telescope! Hopefully they’ll just make a clean decision, without too many comprises to hobble the project. Both countries have done a lot of work in preparation to demonstrate their capabilities. MeerKAT, for example, is already breaking new technological ground. But even if it never gets incorporated into SKA, it’s still a damn fine instrument on its own right, capable of doing great work. Why the concern about wasted effort, when nothing is going to go to waste?
Edit: A real life journalist has covered the issue, Alex Eliseev of The Daily Maverick, far more eloquently and in far more detail here. I highly recommend giving it a read to get a more complete picture.