South Africa Will Likely Trump Australia In $2.5 Billion Radio Telescope Bid

Weekend reports suggest Australia's bid for the Square Kilometre Array has hit what can only be described as a monumental snag. Our plans for the 3000-dish radio telescope, which would likely be constructed near Geraldton in WA (and parts of New Zealand), have been rejected by the panel of scientists put together to officially weigh in on proposals for the array.

An article in the Sydney Morning Herald states the panel, also known as the SKA Site Advisory Committee, preferred the lower power and data transfer costs of South Africa over that of Australia and New Zealand's joint bid.

Not all is lost -- the committee is only providing a recommendation -- with the UK, China, the Netherlands and Italy having the final say. While low costs are always attractive, Australia and NZ are hoping their "security ... attractive lifestyle[s] and conducive business environment[s]" and "clear atmospheric conditions" will get them over the line.

The telescope itself sounds like a fancy piece of kit, with the power to "pick up the equivalent of a television signal on a planet light years away", it's the only chance we have of discovering an episode of extra-terrestrial comedy to rival that of the IT Crowd's "The Work Outing".


Image: SKA.

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    So W.A.'s tender not good enough eh? Well what would some of the finest scientific minds in the world know about Geraldton anyway? Apparently what we know too! It's a god-awful-windy-hole populated with in-bred drug hoovers! Fair enough then.

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    Well, it isn't really Geralton where the plan was situated, just a little bit further north from there but I take your meaning :) Our Australian bid was always going to be a much more expensive option but the hope was that with less security and bureaucracy issues, it might make this a more attractive bid. Perhaps not :(

    Please clarify the expression 'dung hoovers'.

    Also many thanks for the travel tips advice, any others would be appreciated.

    This seems quite inconceivable, given our political stability and the fact that we are home to CSIRO, who lead the world in developing the signal processing technology (FFT chips) that propels much of modern radio astronomy. (The same guys who developed and are collecting huge royalties on WiFi technology)

      The impression I have is that it's been passed over based on costs (and possibly technical merits). It's still up to the four countries mentioned in the post as to who gets the project, and they may very well consider the points you mentioned as more important.

      For 25 years CSIRO pumped a fortune into cloud seeding proving nothing more than wherever they did it it rained less! This "sacred cow" has built itself into a bloated self-interested monster. Let's free up science and join the South Africans. If only Australia had a leader to take us into the 21st century like Mandella took them. Australia's focus on SE Asia should be turned at least in part to Africa. Afer all, it is where we all came from.

    What if Australia had a national fibre optic network would that help with data transfer (or is ADSL and wireless still good enough)?

      The infrastructure is in place to deliver as many wavelengths as they want to the SKA site...

    This decision is certainly a blow to the present Australian Government's thinking that "more expensive" automatically equates to "superior". Maybe we can sweeten the pie by offering a by-product of the array as a training ground for Asia's budding astrologists.

      Or even asia's budding astronomers..

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    South Africa has a much laxer attitude towards corruption and paying of bribes than Australia has.

      How long have u had your head in the sand Sue?

        I agree with Sue. Security and stability within a region is factor that should be considered. Africa is not the safest region on this planet. Have you been under a rock Mike?

      in south africa they'll be stolen before they're even up..

    the out come based on political more than science, and in leiw of the countrys debt repayments

    "preferred the lower power and data transfer costs"? In order to discuss we need to know exactly what this means. Is it insurmountable or not. Does is refer to the cost of power under the carbon tax & other assorted imposts? Or the anticipated cost of data transmission with the NBN? If it is things like the carbon tax it is not a good omen.

      I agree. Unfortunately the info was from a confidential report, so we won't know specifics until that's available.

    Is “clear atmospheric conditions” an issue for these telescopes? If it is then that should surely be the deciding factor.

    I wonder what the costs will be when part of the array falls into the hands of the latest failed state dictator.

    If cost is all their concerned about why not construct it in Zimbabwe.

    The stupid alp do not get "big data" another lost opportunity. We should just build our own

    Well it would be nice to return to the dishes a week later and find that they have not had all the cables ripped out and sold for scrap

    One would think the advantages of building it in Australia for long term security and political reasons would trump any savings in cost.

    South Africa has a hell of a lot of potential problems which could effect the long term viability of such a project.

    Security. Australia is the place. Things could tip quite easily on the African continent over the next 10-15 years and instability would mean a waste of billions of dollars. Good luck, board! Make to right choice.

    The fact that South Africa will win this bid will come as no surprise to me. This country is the iconic fantasy for the worlds politically correct brigade; they can do no wrong in their eyes even though it is rife with corruption and murder. I hope the whole program disintegrates in front of their eyes and the fact that it involves 8 different African countries I have no doubt that it will.

    The Australians are sorry losers and will resort to underhanded tactics to ensure a win.
    The only reason why somebody close to the Australian bid has leaked the results of the technical committee's confidential evaluation to one of their own newspapers is that they are attempting to garner international support to overturn an objective technical assessment. The world will be a poorer place technically and morally if the Australians manage to succeed with their underhanded tactics. I just hope the international community realises this.
    Koos Koekemoer

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    I read somewhere that the mining due to come in the area was another reason for South Africa to have favour.
    Anyway, I thought the area that the Australian/New Zealand bid covered was larger than South Africa's plan? Which would enable the Australia/New Zealand site to have more depth with more detail then what South Africa could. It should really be about the science?

    I would be severely disappointed in our government if they let this slide over a power bill and an internet/data charge! Also the project is largely solar powered. But in the scheme of things, what is the cost going to be of having to rebuild damaged sites in south africa that could potentially arise out of conflict in that region!

    It's a shame that Australia has priced itself out. High wage and low productivity is killing our country.

      You heard it here first folks! Kerry has just volunteered for pay cut! Get off your high horse if you are throwing stones in glass houses.

        if i could like the above comment by god i would.

        I am a small business owner and you are right. I am literally giving myself a paycut from the combined pressures of depressing sales and high wages for my staff.

    You overlooked the geopolitical side of it:
    If European countries vote the SKA to South Africa, they are more likely to source the hardware from Europe, not from Australia, etc. it's in their interest to vote Africa.

    In addition, they can tick off on the 'humanitarian box' because it could potential bring money and jobs to a struggling economy. And they can constantly quote and requote how much money they are making the local communities.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm pro-Australia all the way. We just have a lot to go up against. I'd like to think that Australia we will win as we are a more stable country, with a strong economy. You'd hate to spend all that money just to have it destroyed some how... time will tell.

    Let them have it. The Euroweenies need to salve their colonising consciences. The Saffas and co will bribe and cheat their way to the top as per usual.
    Australia will be best off taking it's bat, Ball, going home and going it alone. Then shaft the Chinese by ramping up iron ore costs and denying every single application going before the IRB, Tax every brit landing in oz a 100% surcharge on their tickets coming here, banning the dutch and inaugurating a pasta deportation plan for the italians

    Tongue in cheek, But seriously. The colonised and the coloniser card will be well played by the south africans and the Europeans have very guilty consciences, not to mention they're broke.

    If it is some sort of guilt aid programme under the guise of science, let the euroweenies pay for it. $2.5 Billion might be something they need to scrape up but Australia really can afford to go it alone if we wanted to. They Cannot.

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