In the context of the five review elements, please evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the proposal with respect to intellectual merit.

The proposed project, which is only a feasibility study (a weak point but also proves the proposers are pragmatic with an hands-on sense of realism), has a tremendous potential for revolutionizing ground-based astronomy, bringing together optimal site selection and the most recent advances in robotic adaptive optics systems. The impact on scientific outputs is very broad, from extra-galactic astronomy to exoplanet science. The main science case of mapping the distribution of dark matter in our Galaxy is of course outstanding.

The project is creative and original on many aspects. The site choice is one aspect (Antarctica is known to be almost space-like). Another one is the robotic adaptive optics system which has now reached a high level of maturity. A project built on these 2 complementary fundamentals (robotic system is obviously optimal for Antarctica) has the potential to be truly transformative in the way we do ground-based astronomy.

The plan, very detailed, is realistic as this proposal is for a feasibility study, which is of course the first step for such an ambitious project. It is built on the proposers extensive and outstanding experience with ROBO-AO and Palomar AO system. The metric for success will automatically be the outcome of this feasibility study (is it feasible, yes or no, at what cost).

The team is strong, composed of experts in the field, surrounded by prestigious scientists for guidance. The PI himself is very experienced. The institution has a long tradition in adaptive optics projects.

Resources for this feasibility study are easily provided by the home institutions of the proposers (Caltech, JPL).

In the context of the five review elements, please evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the proposal with respect to broader impacts.

Yet another strong point of this proposal, the plan for incorporating this activity with student/postdoc mentoring and teaching is very well developed and outstanding (at Caltech but also at Pomona college).

We note the strong commitment of the PI and his home institution for multi-ethnicity (page 12).

Dissemination of the future data products will be ensured by IPAC, which is the appropriate structure for the job. Public outreach is meant to be promoted by a deducted public website (following the robo-ao example) and the Palomar observatory visitor's center.

Please evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the proposal with respect to any additional solicitation-specific review criteria, if applicable

Summary Statement

Outstanding proposal and team. The project which is only a feasibility study (its only weakness but also a demonstration of pragmatism) carries enormous potential to exploit the long-praised Antarctic site, together with the most recent advances in robotic instrumentation.

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