Rudd commits $88m towards SKA project

20/07/2009 - 12:12


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Australia's bid to host the $2.6 billion Square Kilometre Array project has been given a boost by the federal government, which has committed more than $88 million towards a stake in a complementary telescope in Chile.

Rudd commits $88m towards SKA project

Australia's bid to host the $2.6 billion Square Kilometre Array project has been given a boost by the federal government, which has committed more than $88 million towards a stake in a complementary telescope in Chile.



An announcement by Innovation Minister Kim Carr is below:


On the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing, Australia is poised to once again play a crucial role in space discovery, with the Rudd Government announcing that it will provide $88.4 million to ensure we are a major partner in the revolutionary Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT).

The $1 billion GMT is a next-generation instrument larger and more powerful than any optical telescope constructed to date. It will be built and operated by a consortium of institutions from the United States, South Korea and Australia.

To be located in Chile's high-altitude Atacama Desert and completed by 2018, it will have up to 30 times better resolution than current land-based telescopes, with images 10 times sharper than the Hubble Space Telescope.

The $88.4 million funding, to be provided to the Australian National University, includes $23.4 million to upgrade Australian infrastructure, including the ANU's Mount Stromlo Observatory; and $65 million for the telescope itself.

This investment will create at least 240 jobs in Australia during the construction phase.

It will also open up significant opportunities for Australian industry over the 40-year life of the project.

The Rudd Government will be seeking to maximise Australian involvement in the design, construction, instrumentation and maintenance of the GMT - as well as in the science.

The funding will give Australia a 10 per cent share of the GMT and guaranteed observing time - positioning Australian astronomers at the cutting-edge of astronomical research. The telescope can be operated remotely, including from Australia.

This funding builds on the Rudd Government's $1.1 billion Super Science Initiative announced in the Budget - an unprecedented investment in Australia's scientific future.

Data collected by the GMT will revolutionise our understanding of the universe - informing us about its content, physics and history.

The Apollo program was one of the greatest achievements of the 20th century and one that Australia played a crucial role in delivering.

This investment will ensure that Australia is once again at the forefront of global space exploration.

The Rudd Government recognises the importance of strengthening Australia's space research and space technologies.

The benefits of space science are experienced every day right here on earth. Many everyday items have their beginnings in space science - from the luggage scanners at airports, to the diagnostic tools used by cancer specialists.

Space science is also helping us address challenges including climate change, national security, natural resource management and disaster response.

Investing in space science supports high-skill jobs and high-tech industries, with spin-offs throughout the Australian economy.

Australian scientists are world leaders in space research. For example, Australian astronomer Jeremy Mould and two international colleagues have been awarded the 2009 Gruber Cosmology Prize for their work in measuring the age and expansion of the universe.

This commitment complements Australia's involvement in the global effort to build the $2.6 billion Square Kilometre Array (SKA), the largest and most powerful radio telescope in the world. Australia is bidding to host the SKA, with the core site at Murchison in Western Australia.

Together, the GMT and the SKA will allow our astronomers to study a huge swathe of the electromagnetic spectrum, from visible light to radio waves. They will take our understanding of the universe to a level the Apollo pioneers could only dream of.

The United Nations has declared 2009 the International Year of Astronomy - marking 400 years since Galileo turned his 37-millimetre telescope to the skies.


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