Report from the LRPIC

From / de John Hutchings
(Cassiopeia – Summer / été 2018)

The LRPIC meets regularly to monitor LRP projects and priorities, and our recent reports to CASCA are posted on the website. There are now three major ground-based facilities approaching key points of their development: TMT, SKA, and MSE. TMT still awaits approval to build on the Mauna Kea site, and also at the alternative site at La Palma. Progress continues with design work and telescope hardware among the partners, while there is welcome news of NSF’s plan to support both TMT and GMT. SKA is moving to formalize its move to a treaty organisation, although Canada and some others await acceptance as associate members. The MSE project also is moving towards a more formal partnership as it begins final study work prior to construction funding. All three of these major facilities, in which Canada has long played a reading role, will require funding and approval to retain our share and future. The timing and process for these funds will require careful planning. LRPIC notes the successful commissioning of CHIME and the ongoing plans to be a partner in CCAT-prime.

As widely discussed at CASCA, the status of our LRP plans for space facilities is very unsatisfactory. The CSA budget and mandate have both declined in recent years, under more than one government, to being unable to support any significant space science program, and being directed in detail by the government. Consultation and lobbying continue, as CSA-funded studies proceed for mission opportunities that have no guaranteed future. The recent debacle over joining WFIRST is well-known as an example of how badly things have gone, and got some attention in the Globe and Mail. We are working with the Coalition for Astronomy (ACURA, CASCA, and industry) in lobbying on a broad front.

Meantime, JWST, funded when CSA space science was viable, remains as our only partnership in space for the next decade, with no new future facilities committed. Projects that are ready to move ahead include leadership in the wide-field-UV CASTOR telescope, significant participation in SPICA, and valuable smaller partnerships in LiteBIRD, XARM, Ultrasat, and others.

We remind you of the open discussion email list for LRP matters:

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