SSC Going to Pieces

What to buy a bit of scientific history? There's a lot of it available in Waxahachie, Texas. Three years to the day after Congress killed funding for the Superconducting Super Collider (SSC), the Department of Energy (DOE) and the state of Texas have abandoned any hope of doing science on the site and put the entire location--more than 65,000 square meters of buildings and more than 6000 hectares--up for sale or lease.

DOE's first thought was to convert the partially completed facility, including the linear accelerator, into a cancer research center. But after much wrangling the Texas legislature killed that idea and several others, such as a high-performance computing center and a cryogenicssuperconductivity research center. ``The state pretty much just got out of the collider business,'' says former SSC director Roy Schwitters, now at the University of Texas, Austin.

In the meantime, the entrances to the 14 miles of tunnels already built have been filled in. And the land will probably revert to farmland if it's not sold for other commercial purposes, says civil engineer George Robertson, who is heading a seven-person termination team on the site. The scientific equipment was given to universities and other research institutions.

The SSC's demise has turned U.S. high-energy physicists toward the Large Hadron Collider, a European Laboratory for Particle Physics project expected to be completed in 2004 that will carry out part of the SSC's former mission. But SSC's former boosters still mourn, says Schwitters. ``For those of us who still feel that [such a facility] is what is needed to advance the science,'' he says, ``the real loss is the hope that you could ever do it.''