South Africa, in partnership with eight other African countries, will compete with Australia and New Zealand in a race to win the bid to host the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), set to be one of the most powerful telescopes in the world.
According to the Guardian, the £1.3bn (about US $2 billion) project will comprise of thousands of dishes covering a total surface area of one square kilometer.
Lindsay Magnus, commissioning scientist at the Karoo Array Telescope (KAT-7), a prototype of the SKA, is hoping Africa will clinch the deal and said success would transform the continent’s scientific image.
“If you were to think about the way to impact people here with science, there’s no better way. Children already know there’s something big going on, it’s broadening their horizons,” said Magnus.
If Africa wins the bid, about 3000 antenna dishes will be dotted across more than 3 000km.
“The innovation that’s coming out is incredible. They’re not limited by the way things have been done in the past,” said Deborah Shepherd, project scientist and commissioning manager.
“It’s changing the way South Africa is seen, not just as yet another African country which is a basket case but actually as a science and technology leader.
“A lot of African countries are now recognising the importance of science and technology in development. Africa has not been perceived up to now as a place where you do science and technology, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be in the future,” said Bernie Fanaroff, SKA South Africa project director.
The countries are the last two candidates in a five-year competition that saw an international steering committee narrow the field from five proposals to two. The final bid winner will be announced in 2012.