Report from LRPIC

From/de John Hutchings
(Cassiopeia – Summer/été 2017)

The LRP has a number of challenges at present, arising from different events and situations. We will continue to engage the community on these matters as they evolve.

TMT

The CATAC advisory committee has been very active and their report is also in this issue. The LRPIC has focussed more on alternatives to TMT should it no longer be a viable large telescope for Canada. This and related matters are in open discussion on the LRPIC-discuss mailing list, and there has been an open webex discussion and a plenary session at CASCA to give the community opportunities to be involved. The possibility of joining ESO has been the principal focus of these, although possible, but unspecified, collaboration between TMT and GMT has been in the background. At this point, LRPIC considers that the ESO alternative is risky in terms of government funding and approval, as well as being a major change in all our operations that may be unwieldy. Thus, as long as TMT proceeds with construction next year, at either site, we remain committed to it, with strong preference for the Hawaii site, if it is possible. However, major funding issues and solutions need more clarification to keep the confidence of the community.

SKA

The project has been undergoing a significant cost-saving exercise to keep SKA1 within the agreed budget. Ongoing concerns are that key science capability be retained, how Canadian partnership may be negotiated in the new IGO structure, and that Canadian contributions be agreed that enable our desired share of about 6%. A workshop to discuss these, and other radio facilities for the future, is to be held at McGill on September 13-14.

MSE

The design process is proceeding well and should be complete by the end of the calendar year. The challenges ahead include funding by all partners, and clarity on the future of MaunaKea for this and other telescopes.

CSA

The CSA budget currently is unable to support the LRP plans for WFIRST, CASTOR, SPICA, LiteBIRD, and Athena, and of course, any new opportunities that may arise in the next decade. This is a result of space science funding and priority having been badly eroded over the past years, with resources almost entirely dedicated to ISS and Radarsat. This dire overall situation is the subject of lobbying via the Coalition, input to the newly appointed Space Advisory Board, and a `white paper’ prepared by several members of the astronomy community. LRPIC is also participating in these initiatives.

Good news

This includes the expected completion, and early science commissioning of CHIME at DRAO this summer, the funding of access to JCMT by NSERC, and the beginning of construction of CCAT-prime, with expected Canadian partnership. We are following the future evolution of Gemini and possible links to Subaru, which are currently in play.

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