SAAO - South African Astronomical Observatory

WHAT & WHY?

SALT will be the single largest telescope for optical/infrared astronomy in the southern hemisphere. The telescope was proposed at the highest level in South Africa, namely, by the South African Cabinet, with one of its primary missions being to enable South African and international scientists to achieve first-rate science with a world-class facility. The other primary mission for South Africa is to use SALT as a vehicle for capacity building in science, engineering and technology education and training.

In a media statement by the Minister of Arts, Culture, Science & Technology announcing the approval of SALT, the Cabinet foresaw the role of SALT as:

  • Promoting the general development of South African science and the awareness of the importance of science and technology;
  • Providing a focus for astronomical development on the African continent, and technological spin-offs to industry; and
  • The extension of science and technology infrastructure to the Northern Cape as an under-resourced province in this regard.

To give substance to these broader expectations from the SALT project a SALT Collateral Benefits Plan was compiled which was further revised following a workshop attended by the partners in SALT and key decision makers in South Africa. Many excellent ideas and proposals emerged from this workshop. The SALT Collateral Benefits Plan was refined to take account of the outcome of the workshop. Although originally conceived as primarily applicable to South Africa, this SALT Collateral Benefits Plan received strong support from the international partners and it was clear that many of the issues in it were of common interest. For example, this was recently highlighted in the USA Decadal Plan 2000 entitled "Astronomy and Astrophysics in the New Millennium" where a whole chapter is devoted to the role of astronomy in education. Furthermore, it was recognized at the National Research Foundation (NRF) workshop on "The Future of Astronomy and Space Science in South Africa" (February 2001) that this SALT Collateral Benefits Plan, although originating through SALT, is applicable in a wider sense to the whole astronomy and space science community.