We review the multiple changes in Gemini Observatory operations over the past decade, and discuss their effect on scientific productivity. The initial mix of queue and classical programs, allocated by Partner-based Time Allocation Committees (TACs), has evolved to include “Large and Long” programs allocated from a pool by a dedicated TAC, a popular “Fast-turnaround” mode allocated by a novel “proposer review” system, and we are now receiving increasing numbers of visiting instruments, scheduled in blocks. Observations are carried out in queue (service), classical (visitor), and priority visitor (visitors execute both their own observations and the queue) modes. Gemini is already an important facility for following up time-domain discoveries. Looking ahead, Gemini South will be partnered by LSST on Cerro Pachón and both Gemini telescopes will put a significant fraction of observing time into responding to the LSST alert stream; we review Gemini’s positioning to fulfil this role and anticipate additional changes in our operational model, user software and data reduction to accommodate it.
Gemini North Observatory successfully began nighttime remote operations from the Hilo Base Facility control room in November 2015. The implementation of the Gemini North Base Facility Operations (BFO) products was a great learning experience for many of our employees, including the author of this paper, the BFO Systems Engineer.
In this paper we focus on the tailored Systems Engineering processes used for the project, the various software tools used in project support, and finally discuss the lessons learned from the Gemini North implementation. This experience and the lessons learned will be used both to aid our implementation of the Gemini South BFO in 2016, and in future technical projects at Gemini Observatory.
Gemini’s Base Facilities Operations (BFO) Project provided the capabilities to perform routine nighttime operations without anyone on the summit. The expected benefits were to achieve money savings and to become an enabler of the future development of remote operations.
The project was executed using a tailored version of Prince2 project management methodology.
It was schedule driven and managing it demanded flexibility and creativity to produce what was needed, taking into consideration all the constraints present at the time: Time available to implement BFO at Gemini North (GN), two years.
The project had to be done in a matrix resources environment.
There were only three resources assigned exclusively to BFO.
The implementation of new capabilities had to be done without disrupting operations.
And we needed to succeed, introducing the new operational model that implied Telescope and instrumentation Operators (Science Operations Specialists - SOS) relying on technology to assess summit conditions.
To meet schedule we created a large number of concurrent smaller projects called Work Packages (WP).
To be reassured that we would successfully implement BFO, we initially spent a good portion of time and effort, collecting and learning about user’s needs. This was done through close interaction with SOSs, Observers, Engineers and Technicians.
Once we had a clear understanding of the requirements, we took the approach of implementing the "bare minimum" necessary technology that would meet them and that would be maintainable in the long term.
Another key element was the introduction of the "gradual descent" concept. In this, we increasingly provided tools to the SOSs and Observers to prevent them from going outside the control room during nighttime operations, giving them the opportunity of familiarizing themselves with the new tools over a time span of several months. Also, by using these tools at an early stage, Engineers and Technicians had more time for debugging, problem fixing and systems usage and servicing training as well.
The aim of the Gemini Observatory’s Base Facilities Project is to provide the capabilities to perform routine night time operations with both telescopes and their instruments from their respective base facilities without anyone present at the summit. Tightening budget constraints prompted this project as both a means to save money and an opportunity to move toward increasing remote operations in the future.
We successfully moved Gemini North nighttime operation to our base facility in Hawaii in Nov., 2015. This is the first 8mclass telescope to completely move night time operations to base facility. We are currently working on implementing BFO to Gemini South.
Key challenges for this project include: (1) This is a schedule driven project. We have to implement the new capabilities by the end of 2015 for Gemini North and end of 2016 for Gemini South. (2) The resources are limited and shared with operations which has the higher priority than our project. (3) Managing parallel work within the project. (4) Testing, commissioning and introducing new tools to operational systems without adding significant disruptions to nightly operations. (5) Staff buying to the new operational model. (6) The staff involved in the project are spread on two locations separated by 10,000km, seven time zones away from each other. To overcome these challenges, we applied two principles: "Bare Minimum" and "Gradual Descent". As a result, we successfully completed the project ahead of schedule at Gemini North Telescope. I will discuss how we managed the cultural and human aspects of the project through these concepts. The other management aspects will be presented by Gustavo Arriagada , the Project Manager of this project. For technical details, please see presentations from Andrew Serio  and Martin Cordova .