The bid for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope to be situated in South Africa cost R1.1 billion over nine years, said Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor in Parliament on yesterday.
South Africa was bidding against Australia and New Zealand to have the world's largest telescope - and one of the biggest scientific projects even undertaken - situated in the Northern Cape.
On May 25 the global SKA Organisation announced that the project will be shared between South African and Australia, with South Africa hosting the majority of the project.
On Tuesday Pandor said besides the R1.1 billion spent on the bid between 2003 and 2012, a further R895 million has been allocated, through the National Research Foundation, for the project for the 2012/13 and 2012/15 financial years.
The official SKA Africa website estimating the total costs of constructing the SKA to be about R20 billion.
However, Pandor said "the post-2016 implementation costs of the SKA in Africa and Australia will be determined during the SKA pre-construction phase from 2012 to 2016.
"The global SKA Organisation will coordinate global contributions towards the full SKA.
"The target completion date for the SKA construction is 2024 and the total cost to completion will be made known as the design of the SKA is costed and approved."
The construction phase of the world's biggest telescope is scheduled to start in 2016, with the second phase due to be carried out from 2019 to 2024.
The project is expected to contribute towards job creation in - among others - the science, engineering and mathematics fields - and Pandor said graduates are already benefiting.
"The South African SKA Project Office currently employs South African science graduates and constantly recruits internationally where specialised experience is not available in South Africa."
There was also the South African SKA human capital development programme that trains South Africans in engineering and science for the skills required in the construction and research of the SKA.
She said the intention was to recruit local graduates to implement the local content of the SKA project.
The bid had already provided 800 construction job opportunities in the Northern Cape and a further 100 job opportunities would be created this year.
With a greater focus on astronomy and astrophysics as a result of the project, the SKA Youth into Science and Engineering project has since 2005 awarded 293 bursaries to learners in various areas of astronomy. This includes 38 PhDs, 63 MScs and 15 postdoctoral fellowships.
Grants have been made to 72 women and 39 students from other African countries. In addition, six research chairs have been established at South African universities.
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