Dr. Rita R. Colwell
National Science Foundation
Statement on the Groundbreaking
for the Atacama Large Millimeter Array
November 6, 2003
The U.S. National Science Foundation joins today with our North American partner, Canada, and with the European Southern Observatory, Spain, and Chile to prepare for a spectacular new instrument. The Atacama Large Millimeter Array will expand our vision of the universe with "eyes" that pierce the shrouded mantles of space through which light cannot penetrate.
I extend both my congratulations and my regret for not being able to join you. As you break ground for a new observatory, I will join the President at a ceremony to recognize scientists and engineers who have broken ground with far-reaching observations throughout their careers. They will be receiving the distinguished National Medal of Science.
The plateau where ALMA's antennae will rise is one of the most starkly beautiful places on Earth. It's not enough for the scientific community to identify an outstanding site for astronomy; we rely also on the generosity and cooperation of a willing host. Chile has a long history of opening regions of exceptional scientific merit to the world community.
Last year, I participated in the official opening of Gemini South near La Serena. Gemini is but one in a long line of facilities that have taken advantage of the observing conditions in Chile and paved the way for one more.
Today marks the official start of construction. But the ALMA partnership also breaks ground with a novel collaboration that ensures equal access by astronomers on at least three continents. International partnerships are quickly becoming the norm of the millennium, enabling organizations and nations to combine funds to achieve greater scientific capability. NSF is proud to participate in the creation of an instrument that will provide unprecedented power for science and immeasurable knowledge for all.
ALMA's 64 radio telescopes will serve as windows through which scientists and the curious public will "see" back in time and far away, to where the earliest and most distant galaxies were forming.
Our investments in ALMA's educational programs will be as important as our outlays for construction, operations, and scientific research. With our ALMA partners, we will engage a younger generation of scientists and engineers in bonds that leap national borders and integrate education with research.
We at NSF extend our best wishes for the speedy completion of ALMA and for a lifetime of spectacular achievements.