The “forgotten” GRIPS proposal

It’s been over seven years since this project started, but of course there can be a long road even before getting a proposal selected for funding. Not only was that funded proposal actually submitted nearly eight years ago (February 2008), proposals such as these are rarely selected on the first attempt, and GRIPS was no exception. It’s fairly common knowledge that the successful proposal was actually an updated version of an unsuccessful proposal in 2007, which had been rated very highly but deemed too expensive/ambitious for a three-year project. The proposal that eventually won had an expanded timeline of four years. (Note that this proposal did not include a full-up instrument or an Antarctic flight; we were awarded additional funding in 2012.)

What’s far less commonly known is that there was actually an even earlier GRIPS proposal in 2006. I had worked on the GRIPS concept since the beginning, but my memories of that proposal had grown extremely hazy. Feeling a bit wistful with the new year, I dug the 2006 proposal out of my archives, and was amusingly surprised by what I had forgotten.

Here are some highlights:

  • The name itself was decided only a few days prior to submission. Drafts up to that point had the vague labels of “solar” or “balloon”.
  • The multi-pitch rotating modulator (MPRM), a mainstay of our logo, had not yet been thought up by Gordon Hurford, so instead we proposed a typical, non-rotating coded mask. The aspect system consisted of a single star camera.
  • The plan was to re-use the NCT gondola (which would be tragically destroyed in 2010) despite no natural way to include a 10-meter(!) separation between the mask and the detectors, and thus the coded mask was to be mounted on a retractable(!) boom.
  • The ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit) electronics were to be inside the cryostat such that only processed event data would pass across the cryostat wall (i.e., the equivalent of our current detector chain including the card cages would have been inside the cryostat!). Furthermore, there was to be both an analog ASIC and a digital ASIC, each type delivered by a different partner institution, but neither ASIC had actually been developed yet(!).

I am definitely relieved that the 2006 proposal was not selected for funding. While it’s always disappointing to have a proposal declined, some proposals really do need (a lot) more time in the formulation stage.

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