Panel Summary

The panel agreed on the compelling intellectual merit of this proposal. Following the ASTRO-2010 recommendations, it is building on the very successful Robo-AO experience, and the appealing properties of the best site in the world (Antarctica). One of the original and creative aspects of this proposal was the goal of characterizing the ground layer and compensate for it, which would alleviate the need for building tall towers, and relax the site choice (Dome C would not be mandatory). The science case for such a facility could be very broad, but the proposers have chosen to focus on astrometry with well-quantified expectations as good as 10 microarcsec (7 times better than already demonstrated at Palomar, over short periods of time). Such a fantastic astrometric precision, if confirmed, would be game changing in answering questions about dark matter but also help characterize exoplanets.

The panel was impressed by the PI's strong track record in leading major AO projects to completion. The assembled team is composed of pioneers in robotic AO telescopes. The panel found this project very bold but was at the same time a bit disappointed by the modest deliverables (a feasibility study and lab test results). This minor weakness was on the other hand recognized by the panel as a proof of pragmatism.

The planning and organizational aspects of the proposal are excellent. Preliminary error budgets are already discussed, which is impressive. One concern a reviewer had was the lack of discussion of a contingency plan if the final claimed astrometric precision can not be met. Also the project seems to rely on GAIA to set the astrometric frame to reach the 10 microarcsec goal, which is a risk factor.

Access to resources is guaranteed by the affiliation of the team members. The panel was very impressed by the track record of the PI and his team for broader impacts, reaching out to under-represented groups (minority undergraduate research fellowships).

This proposal ranked highly and is worthy of consideration for funding.

The summary was read by the panel and the panel concurred that the summary accurately reflects the panel discussion.

Topic revision: r1 - 2013-05-01 - RichardDekany
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