The Superconducting Super Collider (SSC) (also nicknamed the Desertron) was a particle accelerator complex under construction in the vicinity of Waxahachie, Texas, that was set to be the world's largest and most energetic, surpassing the current record held by the Large Hadron Collider. Its planned ring circumference was 87.1 kilometres (54.1 mi) with an energy of 20 TeV per proton. The project's director was Roy Schwitters, a physicist at the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Louis Ianniello served as its first Project Director for 15 months. The project was cancelled in 1993 due to budget problems.
The system was first formally discussed in the December 1983 National Reference Designs Study, which examined the technical and economic feasibility of a machine with the design capacity of 20 TeV per proton.Fermilab director and subsequent Nobel physics prizewinnerLeon Lederman was a very prominent early supporter – some sources say the architect or proposer – of the Superconducting Super Collider project, which was endorsed around 1983, and a major proponent and advocate throughout its lifetime.
An extensive U.S. Department of Energy review was done during the mid-1980s. Seventeen shafts were sunk and 23.5 km (14.6 mi) of tunnel were bored by late 1993.
During the design and the first construction stage, a heated debate ensued about the high cost of the project. In 1987, Congress was told the project could be completed for $4.4 billion, and it gained the enthusiastic support of SpeakerJim Wright of nearby Fort Worth, Texas. A recurring argument was the contrast with NASA's contribution to the International Space Station (ISS), a similar dollar amount. Critics of the project (Congressmen representing other US states and scientists working in non-SSC fields who felt the money would be better spent on their own fields) argued that the US could not afford both of them. Early in 1993 a group supported by funds from project contractors organized a public relations campaign to lobby Congress directly, but in June, the non-profit Project on Government Oversight released a draft audit report by the Department of Energy's Inspector General heavily criticizing the Super Collider for its high costs and poor management by officials in charge of it.
A high-level schematic of the lab landscape during the final planning phases.
Congress officially canceled the project October 21, 1993 after $2 billion had been spent. Many factors contributed to the cancellation: rising cost estimates; poor management by physicists and Department of Energy officials; the end of the need to prove the supremacy of American science with the collapse of the Soviet Union; belief that many smaller scientific experiments of equal merit could be funded for the same cost; Congress's desire to generally reduce spending; the reluctance of Texas Governor Ann Richards; and President Bill Clinton's initial lack of support for a project begun during the administrations of Richards's predecessor, Bill Clements, and Clinton's predecessors, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. However, in 1993, Clinton tried to prevent the cancellation by asking Congress to continue "to support this important and challenging effort" through completion because "abandoning the SSC at this point would signal that the United States is compromising its position of leadership in basic science".
Following Rep. Jim Slattery's successful orchestration in the House, President Clinton signed the bill which finally cancelled the project on October 31, 1993, stating regret at the "serious loss" for science.
Reactions to the cancellation
Steven Weinberg, a Nobel laureate in Physics, places the cancellation of the SSC in the context of a bigger national and global socio-economic crisis, including a general crisis in funding for science research and for the provision of adequate education, healthcare, transportation and communication infrastructure, and criminal justice and law enforcement.
The closing of the SSC had adverse consequences for the southern part of the Dallas–Fort Worth Metroplex, and resulted in a mild recession, most evident in those parts of Dallas which lay south of the Trinity River. When the project was canceled, 22.5 km (14.0 mi) of tunnel and 17 shafts to the surface were already dug, and nearly two billion dollars had already been spent on the massive facility.
The SSC cost was due largely to the massive civil engineering project of digging a huge tunnel underground. The LHC, in contrast, took over the pre-existing engineering infrastructure and 27 km long underground cavern of the Large Electron–Positron Collider, and used innovative magnet designs to bend the higher energy particles into the available tunnel. The LHC eventually cost the equivalent of about 5 billion US dollars to build.
Current status of site
View of the SSC site, 2008
After the project was canceled, the main site was deeded to Ellis County, Texas, and the county tried numerous times to sell the property. The property was finally sold in August 2006 to an investment group led by the late J.B. Hunt. Collider Data Center has contracted with GVA Cawley to market the site as a data center.
Chemical company Magnablend bought the property and facilities in 2012, against some opposition from the local community.
^"In Memory of Louis Ianniello". JOM (Minerals, Metals & Materials Society). October 2005. Retrieved August 17, 2012. "Ianniello initiated the effort to construct the Superconducting Supercollider as the first project director, established the organization, led the project through the first crucial 15 months defining the Texas site specific baseline, and led the project through initial Congressional approval" (archived at Highbeam)(subscription required)
^ abAbbott, Charles (June 1987). "Illinois Issues journal, June 1987". p. 18. "Lederman, who considers himself an unofficial propagandist for the super collider, said the SSC could reverse the physics brain drain in which bright young physicists have left America to work in Europe and elsewhere." (direct link to article: 
^Trivelpiece, Alvin W. (2005). "Some Observations on DOE's Role in Megascience" (PDF). History of Physics Forum, American Physical Society. Retrieved July 11, 2010. Trivelpiece recounts hearing "about a conversation between the Governor of Texas, the Honorable Ann Richards, and President Clinton early in his administration. He asked her if she wanted to fight for the SSC. She said no. That meant it would no longer be an administration imperative."(subscription required)
^Clinton, Bill (June 16, 1993). "Letter to Representative William H. Natcher on the Superconducting Super Collider" (pdf). U.S. Government Printing Office. Retrieved April 4, 2012. The letter reads in part, "As your Committee considers the Energy and Water Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 1994, I want you to know of my continuing support for the Superconducting Super Collider (SSC). ... Abandoning the SSC at this point would signal that the United States is compromising its position of leadership in basic science—a position unquestioned for generations. These are tough economic times, yet our Administration supports this project as a part of its broad investment package in science and technology. ... I ask you to support this important and challenging effort."
^Calder, Nigel (2005). Magic Universe:A Grand Tour of Modern Science. pp. 369–370. "The possibility that the next big machine would create the Higgs became a carrot to dangle in front of funding agencies and politicians. A prominent American physicist, Leon lederman, advertised the Higgs as The God Particle in the title of a book published in 1993 ...Lederman was involved in a campaign to persuade the US government to continue funding the Superconducting Super Collider... the ink was not dry on Lederman's book before the US Congress decided to write off the billions of dollars already spent"
Riordan, Michael (Fall 2001). "A Tale of Two Cultures: Building the Superconducting Super Collider, 1988–1993". Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences 32(1), pp. 125–144, doi:10.1016/j.shpsa.2009.06.004