Message from the Director Regarding WFMOS
By Doug Simons
On May 12-13 the Gemini Board met to discuss, among other topics, the future of the WFMOS project. At this meeting the Observatory provided the Board with a variety of information to support a definitive decision by the Board about proceeding with WFMOS. Regretfully, due to funding limitations, the Board could not support continuing with WFMOS and through this message I am informing the entire Gemini community that the WFMOS project has been terminated.
From the earliest stages in the Aspen program, WFMOS was identified to be the highest priority component of the planned Aspen instruments. This was due to the depth and breadth of science that a highly multiplexed spectrometer like WFMOS could provide to our community. Enormous amounts of effort from highly skilled teams around the globe was invested in the WFMOS design studies. In parallel, the Gemini and Subaru Observatories nurtured a collaboration with the Hyper Suprime Camera project so that key components could be shared between these instruments to reduce costs and develop a scientific synergy between a powerful wide field imager and spectrometer. In essence, WFMOS represented a paradigm shift in the development of the type of bold new instruments needed to propel ground-based astronomy forward. Despite all of the momentum built into the WFMOS project leading into the recent Gemini Board meeting, adequate funding simply could not be found to proceed forward.
As one of the "architects" of the Aspen program, I would like to express my thanks, both personally and on behalf of Gemini Observatory, to all those who worked so hard to bring WFMOS so far. Despite this setback, I remain convinced that an instrument like WFMOS will be built at some point, even if Gemini does not have a role in it.
Gemini Board Resolution on WFMOS
2009.A.1. The Board acknowledges receipt of the results of the WFMOS design studies in a report from the Observatory. The Board also acknowledges receipt of a draft of the Memorandum of Understanding between NAOJ and the Gemini Partnership describing the obligations and expectations of implementing and operating the WFMOS instrument on Subaru, the principles guiding the execution of WFMOS science (both campaign and PI driven) opportunities, and the mechanism for time exchange and access to the Gemini telescopes both North and South.
The Board recognizes there is strong science support in the Gemini community for the development of WFMOS, intense interest in developing an effective collaboration with NAOJ, and strong science motivation for the project. However, WFMOS has significantly increased in cost, and the Gemini Partnership can identify neither the necessary resources to proceed to WFMOS PDR, nor the totality of funds required in the out-years to successfully complete the instrument. The Board regretfully terminates the WFMOS Aspen initiative.
The Board unequivocally endorses the GPI project as the completion of the Aspen program.
The Board wishes to express its deep appreciation for the extraordinary effort of the Gemini Observatory, our partner communities, as well as our colleagues at NAOJ. The Board does recognize the engagement between the Gemini partnership and NAOJ and the communities they represent as being enormously beneficial to the expanding international nature of astronomy, and more importantly, the development of strong friendship and aspiration for collaborations to advance science. The Board greatly values the developing scientific partnership between the Gemini and Subaru communities, as manifest in the first ever joint Gemini/Subaru science conference in May 2009, and remains open to exploring areas of mutual interest and benefit to further strengthen this partnership.