Superconducting Super Collider
R. Charles of Milton, Mass., asks, 'Whatever happened to...?'
It began as a $5 billion project to find out why matter has mass and to probe the origin of the universe.
The Superconducting Super Collider would smash atomic particles together at near-light speeds by hurling them around a 54-mile-long underground racetrack.
Construction was approved in 1987, and in 1992 engineers began digging in rural Waxahachie, Texas. It was to be finished by 2002.
But then costs started to skyrocket. The new price tag was $11.8 billion, and Congress was in a budget-cutting mood. Cries of mismanagement and runaway spending were voiced.
In 1993, with only 14 miles of the tunnel completed, Congress pulled the plug on what would have been the largest experimental facility ever built. Texas politicians - notably Sen. Phil Gramm (R) - lobbied in vain to keep the collider alive. Texas had sunk $400 million into the pursuit.
Today, research buildings for the accelerator stand vacant. Shafts to the tunnel are sealed, and Texas is in the process of selling off the land. There are no current plans to revive the project.
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