South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, and the Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor unveiled the second of 64 MeerKAT antennas on Saturday (28 February),
The South African MeerKAT radio telescope, currently being built outside Carnarvon in Northern Cape, is a precursor to the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope, to be built in South Africa and in Australia and will be integrated into the SKA during the first phase of construction.
"It is particularly significant that eight other African countries will be involved in hosting the second phase of the project. This promises to establish Africa as a hub for expanding scientific inquiry," said the Deputy President.
Ministers from the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Committee, Northern Cape Premier, Sylvia Lucas, local mayors, community members and ambassadors and high commissioners from Germany, Portugal, China, Zambia and Mozambique attended the event.
In appreciating the broader benefits of this project to South Africa, government has identified the construction of the SKA as a strategic infrastructure project overseen by the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Committee.
During the visit, Deputy President Ramaphosa welcomed the huge benefit brought by the hosting the SKA and urged South Africans to take full advantage of this huge project.
"The 699 students and postdoctoral fellows that have been supported through the SKA South Africa bursary and fellowship programme are at the forefront of this effort. This project is developing technical and artisan skills while producing a new cohort of young scientists", said the Deputy President.
He said one of the main goals of the project is to alleviate poverty and improve the lives of people. "The SKA forms part of efforts to transform South Africa’s economy through human capital development, innovation, value addition, industrialisation and entrepreneurship. It will create jobs not only during the next decade or so of construction, but also for the next 50 years of operation and maintenance. Science and technology can do much in the fight against poverty, unemployment and inequality."
Ramaphosa said the project is developing technical and artisan skills while producing a new cohort of young scientists. "Scientists are not born. They are made. They are the products of a society that values knowledge, promotes learning and rewards innovation. They are products of a society that reads, of schools that work and parents that are engaged in the intellectual development of their children."
The Deputy President also commended Dr Bennie Fanaroff, Director of SKA Project South Africa and the Minister and the former Ministers of Science and Technology for their sterling work in the development of the SKA project. Second dish was named in honour of Dr Fanaroff.
Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor vowed that SKA project will meet its deadlines. "By the end of 2016 they will have 64 dishes of the MeerKAT ready for commissioning and by 2017 the telescope will be ready to do science."
"We are proud that, even before the MeerKAT has been completed, five years of observing time on it have already been allocated to more than 500 radio astronomers, 85 of them from Africa. It demonstrates massive confidence in South Africa's scientific infrastructure, in which the Department of Science and Technology continues to invest."
The SKA will address fundamental unanswered questions about our Universe including how the first stars and galaxies formed after the Big Bang, how galaxies have evolved since then, the role of magnetism in the cosmos, the nature of gravity, the search for life beyond Earth.
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