Update from the Managing Director: Planning, Funding and Paperwork
By: Federico Ferrini, CTAO Managing Director
It was Wernher von Braun who said, “Our two greatest problems are gravity and paperwork. We can lick gravity, but sometimes the paperwork is overwhelming.” Building CTA may not be as difficult as defying the laws of gravity, but it does take a lot of planning (and paperwork) to achieve!
To this end, while the summer is traditionally characterized as a period of slower rhythms and some relaxation, the CTA Observatory (CTAO) management took advantage of this lull in activity to continue the development of the concepts and documents that, in our view, will drive a well-conceived and solid approach to the construction of the observatory. Among the many documents that were on the table were: the Cost Book (finalising the version that will be sent to an external panel); the Medium-Term Plan (conceiving its structure and starting to organise the content of chapters); the Management Plan (advancing its redaction); the Business Plan (modifications to reflect the current project conditions); and the Science Data Management Centre Hosting Agreement (negotiations with DESY concluded and awaiting final approvals for signature).
Additionally, in September, the CTAO shareholders ratified their strong support of the CTA project by finalising their contributions at an extraordinary meeting of the CTAO Council. The final 2020 budget to prepare the design and implementation of the observatory is being considered (with recommendations from the Administrative and Finance Committee) for approval at the November Council meeting. The Council also approved the panel for the Cost Book analysis and validation and expressed its consensus on the Phase I objective for the CTAO-ERIC: to construct the threshold configuration of the observatory (with the promised funding of about 310 MEuro).
It is my intention to conclude all the matters posed on the table by the end of November (although approval by our governing bodies may arrive later), including implementing an efficient, transparent and fully integrated CTAO on the CTA-North site in La Palma. And, in the not-so-distant future, we will target the end of March 2020 for the ERIC Step 2 Application, organise the gGmbH to ERIC transition, advance the risk management plan, promote a sound proposal for the Medium-Sized Telescope harmonisation, recruit more staff and revise the documentation system.
Perhaps it may be too much (work and paperwork), but, clearly, we are at a turning point of the CTA project, and I am grateful to the CTAO staff and our CTA Consortium partners in their continuing efforts to realise this program.
Finally, we are in the beginning stages of a very promising collaboration – the CTAO recently met with the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Organisation and discussed possible joint activities. There is more to come on this topic, but I am confident that in the next few months we will announce significative progress. As the CTAO must create the ideal conditions for the global science community to collaborate with and access our Earth-based gamma-ray observatory, this partnership will serve as the cornerstone for future collaborations with astronomical facilities.