A new path to first light for the Magdalena Ridge Observatory interferometer
The Magdalena Ridge Observatory Interferometer (MROI) was the most ambitious infrared interferometric facility conceived of in 2003 when funding began. Today, despite having suffered some financial short-falls, it is still one of the most ambitious interferometric imaging facilities ever designed. With an innovative approach to attaining the original goal of fringe tracking to H = 14th magnitude via completely redesigned mobile telescopes, and a unique approach to the beam train and delay lines, the MROI will be able to image faint and complex objects with milliarcsecond resolutions for a fraction of the cost of giant telescopes or space-based facilities. The design goals of MROI have been optimized for studying stellar astrophysical processes such as mass loss and mass transfer, the formation and evolution of YSOs and their disks, and the environs of nearby AGN. The global needs for Space Situational Awareness (SSA) have moved to the forefront in many communities as Space becomes a more integral part of a national security portfolio. These needs drive imaging capabilities ultimately to a few tens of centimeter resolution at geosynchronous orbits. Any array capable of producing images on faint and complex geosynchronous objects in just a few hours will be outstanding not only as an astrophysical tool, but also for these types of SSA missions. With the recent infusion of new funding from the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) in Albuquerque, NM, MROI will be able to attain first light, first fringes, and demonstrate bootstrapping with three telescopes by 2020. MROI's current status along with a sketch of our activities over the coming 5 years will be presented, as well as clear opportunities to collaborate on various aspects of the facility as it comes online. Further funding is actively being sought to accelerate the capability of the array for interferometric imaging on a short time-scale so as to achieve the original goals of this ambitious facility.