By Quantum and Flash Modin
In the 1980s the Department of Energy started to design what would have been the biggest science experiment in the world, the Superconducting Super Collider. Waxahachie, Texas was all set to host a particle accelerator that would have dwarfed Switzerland's Large Hadron Collider, today's reigning champ. Construction began in 1991, then was abruptly canceled in 1993.
Congress pulled the plug in 1993 for a couple reasons. The projected budget swelled from about $4.4 billion to $12 billion. Political support for the project had always been shaky, and it essentially came down to whether Congress wanted to fund the International Space Station, or the SSC. The ISS won out.
Today the old SSC site sits rusting away. No one wants to buy the derelict buildings, so they are slowly rotting into the Texas prairie. Workers had drilled over 14 miles of tunnels underground.
During a lull in this year’s March Meeting in Dallas, we set off to explore the dilapidated facility. Here’s what we found…
Driving up to the facility we could see the remains of the complex from the road. The site we explored was mostly where technicians would manufacture the magnets and assemble beamlines.
Photo from its heyday.
The first building we looked at was once used to house gigantic dewars holding liquid nitrogen to keep the superconducting magnets cold.
Today all of the equipment has been removed, leaving only deep pits behind.
At one end of the building was a long room that was once used to test the long beam lines.
Today, not much is left.
Outside we were able to climb and get a higher vantage point.
Derelict equipment was all over the place.
The old interior of the Magnet Development Laboratory where technicians coiled superconducting niobium wires to make powerful magnets.
Once again, very little remains.
Huge augers and drilling machines bore miles of tunnels underground.
These old access points have long been filled in.
Here is where our journey to the depths of the lab came to an end. Inside the last building we explored, giant
We weren't able to make our way into the tunnels, but they're largely filled in now. Six inches of water lay at the bottom of one staircase leading down to what looks like an old circuit breaker room. The underground sections of the complex are beneath the water table. If water level was this high this close to the surface, the tunnels that were far deeper underground are almost certainly filled with water.