Pandor disappointed at delay over telescope

Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor is disappointed at the delay of the announcement of whether South Africa would host the world’s largest radio telescope, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), she said on Wednesday.

“I am disappointed at the delay. I hope that the SKA organisation will make a decision in the first half of 2012 and that the decision will reflect the best scientific outcome,” she said in statement.

On Tuesday, the SKA organisation met in the Netherlands and decided more time was needed to investigate how investments made by the candidates –Australia and South Africa — could be maximised, according to a statement on the SKA website.

Information leaked to the media last month suggested the committee, which conducted its assessments earlier this year, had recommended the project be awarded to South Africa.

The five SKA member countries that will take the final decision are Canada, China, Italy, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.

Pandor remained optimistic that South Africa would be chosen as the host country.

“We believe we have an excellent site at which exciting science will be done. We in Africa are ready to host the SKA,” she said.

South Africa has partnered with Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zambia to host the 3,000 antenna that will make up the SKA.

Half of these will be located in a five-kilometre diameter central region in the Karoo, while the rest will be spread up to 3,000 kilometres from this central concentration.

South Africa winning the bid for the SKA — one of the world’s biggest science projects — would provide a huge boost for the country’s economy, especially in the construction, engineering, and IT sectors.