On May 10, the National Science Board (NSB) reaffirmed the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) Project by approving additional funding to complete the project. This NSB approval is recognition of the transformational nature of the science ALMA will enable. This action provides the National Science Foundation (NSF) Director with spending authority for the revised budget and scope of the project, a very important step towards acquiring the funds from the Administration and the U.S. Congress to complete ALMA. The cost increase is due to a number of factors, such as the complexity of an international project, a significant increase in commodity prices, and a booming economy in Chile. Starting last October, the ALMA project underwent a series of reviews of its budget and schedule, as well as its management, by expert panels organized by the ALMA Board and by the NSF. All the reviews found the technical readiness of the project to be extremely high. These reviews recognized the high quality of the people involved with the project and the significant efforts made by the project to control and manage its budget and schedule. These were key factors in obtaining the NSB approval, as was the effort the ALMA Board has made to ensure its ability to act in a timely way, while holding the project accountable.
Starting more than a year ago, the ALMA project went through a thorough review of the scope, budget, and schedule by the ALMA team (the re-baseline process), under the lead of ALMA Project Manager Tony Beasley of the Joint ALMA Office. The ALMA project was then reviewed by an international expert panel, headed by Steve Beckwith of the Space Telescope Science Institute, appointed by the ALMA Board. Subsequent to the successful review of the entire ALMA project, the NSF commissioned another panel, headed by Don Hartill of Cornell, to review the cost and management of the North American part of ALMA to ensure the re-baselined project can be successfully completed under the proposed budget. The North American ALMA Project Manager Adrian Russell, the entire ALMA team, and the supporting NRAO scientific, technical, and administrative staff deserve our sincere thanks for their excellent work on the budget re-baselining and their outstanding performance through the multiple project reviews.
This NSB approval also could not have been accomplished without the strong and unwavering support of the astronomical community in North America, and indeed the world. The NRAO and its international partners, the European Southern Observatory and the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, are dedicated to building and operating an ALMA that will fulfill its scientific promise and open extraordinary new frontiers. Elsewhere in this issue of the NRAO Newsletter you will read about the excellent progress being made on ALMA construction in Chile, and the continuing progress on ALMA technology development and testing at the NRAO Technology Center in Charlottesville, at the Antenna Test Facility in New Mexico, and elsewhere. Excitement about ALMA science continues to build, and we hope that many of you will attend one of the up-coming meetings that will focus on ALMA science such Science with ALMA: A New Era for Astrophysics, which will convene in Madrid, Spain from November 13 ? 16, 2006. Two major and productive reviews of the Observatory's progress on its other major construction project, the Expanded Very Large Array (EVLA), took place in Socorro at the Array Operations Center in May. The EVLA Advisory Committee met on May 8 ? 9, and the NSF Mid-Project Update took place on May 11?12. These meetings thoroughly reviewed the status and future of the EVLA Project. The presentations by the EVLA project staff were clear and effective, and the team did an excellent job during what was a rather grueling week. The NRAO is particularly grateful for the time and careful effort invested by each member of these review committees.
The EVLA Advisory Committee found the project to be making strong and continuous progress towards its goals. They were impressed, for example, by the Project team's efficient implementation of pre-commissioning tests. The committee was concerned, however, that the profile of the EVLA in the astronomical community is inordinately low. The committee's good suggestions for improving the EVLA Project's visibility in the broader community included involving astronomers as early as possible and inaugurating a postdoctoral program in New Mexico that would support EVLA commissioning activities and effectively train the next generation of EVLA users. The committee also urged the NRAO to aggressively engage the user community in test observations in support of EVLA commissioning as soon as possible.
The NRAO is continually seeking new and innovative ways to provide the astronomical community access to our facilities and enable the broadest range of scientific research. On May 17, the NRAO hosted a Legacy Projects Workshop (http://www.aoc.nrao.edu/events/ legacy/) at the Array Operations Center in Socorro, New Mexico. Legacy and Key projects have been implemented to great effect at other observatories, and this workshop was an important venue for seeking the community's advice regarding how such large projects might be implemented at the NRAO. Legacy and Key projects should produce results of high scientific impact or data of long-term value to the entire astronomical community. They may require large amounts of time on one or more telescopes, collaborations of many astronomers from several institutions, new instrumentation and software, and new modes of observing. This mid-May workshop at the NRAO brought together interested astronomers to identify the leading scientific and technical opportunities for such large projects and refine NRAO's policies for implementing them. The workshop was a great success, and included invited speakers, a panel discussion, and both oral and poster sessions enabling every participant to present ideas related to legacy programs involving NRAO facilities. The call for proposals for the upcoming October 2 deadline will include the solicitation of Legacy and Key projects.
The annual NRAO Users Committee meeting took place at Socorro, May 18 ? 19. Chaired by Michele Thornley (Bucknell University), this meeting included vigorous discussion about ALMA, EVLA, GBT, VLBA, e2e, CDL technology, user support programs, software development, the WWW, EPO, and other key items. The committee made a number of excellent recommendations that will be carefully considered and discussed by the senior management team and the scientific staff. We were particularly gratified that the committee was impressed by NRAO's responsiveness to the committee and the Observatory's commitment to its users, and encouraged the devotion of an increased fraction of telescope time to Legacy and Key projects.
As every summer begins, the Observatory enjoys meeting a new group of summer students. Seven students have recently arrived in Charlottesville, for example, to spend the months of June through August doing research in collaboration with NRAO scientific staff on topics as diverse as star formation, exotic pulsars, nearby active galaxies, instrumentation, and ALMA simulations. We are always delighted to greet the new summer students. Supporting the development of the next generation of astronomers is a responsibility that the NRAO takes very seriously.
In mid-August, at the International Astronomical Union General Assembly in Prague, the NRAO will staff an exhibit that describes the VLA / EVLA, GBT, and VLBA. We are also collaborating with our international partners on an ALMA exhibit. As always, we will be very interested to discuss with you how the NRAO can best serve your scientific research.
Fred K. Y. Lo