Maunakea Spectroscopic Explorer (MSE) Update

By Patrick Hall (MSE Management Group Member)
(Cassiopeia – Autumn 2023)

Funding Proposals

Disappointingly, the $6.5M Canada Foundation for Innovation funding request for wide-field spectroscopic telescope design and development work was not funded.

Based on the comments received, a significantly different approach would have to be taken for a future proposal to be successful. For instance, the Expert Committee reviewers wrote “Although the long-term science that will be enabled by the planned technology development activities is important, the proposal does not clearly articulate their innovation. As described, the endeavors are not novel or pushing the state-of-the-art.” And: “The nature of this project is too specialized to have concrete benefits on the population. As such, its impact remains unclear.” While the lack of direct and immediate return to the community is inherent to all astronomy projects, these comments imply that CFI is unlikely to be right path to fund proven components for MSE but could support more innovative (and potentially high risk) technologies.

More encouragingly, a $0.5M NSF ATI (Advanced Technology & Instrumentation) grant proposal led by Sam Barden at the MSE Project Office at CFHT was approved. The proposal will fund critical technology development for MSE spectrographs (wavelength splitting and pupil slicing).

A $4M NSF MRI (Major Research Instrumentation) will be revised and resubmitted in November.

An NSF Mid-Scale Research Infrastructure-1 (MSRI1, $6M-$20M range) proposal for MSE design work or Pathfinder construction will be submitted Jan 2024. A similar previous proposal was well received (recommended by a review panel to go forward to the next review phase, but the panel was overruled).

If an NSF Mid-Scale Innovations Program in Astronomical Sciences (MSIP, $4M-$30M) call is made this year, a proposal to advance the MSE Pathfinder will be submitted.

MSE and MSE Pathfinder Instrument at CFHT

Information on the MSE Pathfinder instrument has been circulated as part of the Upcoming Ten Years of CFHT discussions, as circulated to CASCA members and available at this link. Discussions also continue with four groups who expressed interest in MSE Pathfinder and three in MSE design study work in the recent CFHT call for partners in those initiatives.

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