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Thirty Meter Telescope

The Project Manager's Corner: Toward Implementing TMT
Gary Sanders, TMT Project Manager

April 2007

We are now about 60% through the Design Development Phase of TMT and we are planning the implementation of TMT. We know enough about the design and requirements, the cost and schedule, and we are in the final year of narrowing the site choice. A growing focus is planning the mobilization on a site, the remaining design and development, and starting industrialization by producing TMT components. Our vision is to initiate work on a site in about two years.

We have written many times about the measurements being made on the 5 candidate sites to define the different site qualities that enable or limit astronomy observing. Already the data sets offer a confirmation that our candidate sites in Chile, Hawaii and Mexico are all excellent, but different in specific qualities. We have developed an ever more sophisticated toolkit for evaluating the data from the sites and comparing the features that relate to astronomy. This is a process that is being done in 3- month intervals looking at successively more complete sets of data and employing our Science Advisory Committee (SAC) to assess the astronomy impact. This summer we will produce a comprehensive report combining all of the analyses and we will hold our first external review of the site testing. This process has been closely held because the process is necessarily competitive between the sites and their host communities. But once completed, with a site selected in 2008, the data sets will go through final peer review and quality checks and be published as an asset for the astronomy community and builders of future telescopes.

We have already written in this column about the refinements and value engineering carried out on our design since last fall. And we have described the consolidation of the new design, and the revised cost and schedule development. As I write this column, most of the engineers in the project are engaged in a two day review of our technical design requirements and of the design architecture, the main design choices. Later this week, we will hold a review of our operations plan for TMT. This is another essential element in defining our vision for implementing this great observatory.

The design and prototyping tasks are now focused on the final two years leading to initiating construction. In the next few months we will describe steps taken in qualifying mirror glasses, further primary mirror fabrication tasks and other critical path items.

An important part of the past 6 months has been a refinement of our early light instrument suite and we have consulted several times with our SAC on this refinement. An important next step is to reach out to the broadest possible astronomy community and engage in a workshop on TMT science and the instrument capabilities that are planned and desired. In this Newscast, Betsy Barton, a member of our SAC from UC Irvine, announces a broad TMT Science Workshop to be held this summer to focus on this engagement with the astronomy community. Readers may recall that our instrument design studies were initiated by a call to the entire North American instrument design community. This led to a dozen instrument and adaptive optics design studies. The fruits of that work are now being taken back to the community in preparation for the closing phase of TMT design development.

This summer, TMT will bring together our plan for implementing TMT. An external review will assess the plan. This will provide guidance as we move to the final two years of design development. It will lay the foundation for confident site selection and defining the mobilization for the next phase.

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