The High Water Mark of American Science
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.
That commenter is right. In 1897 we couldn't have imagined the applications that would come out of basic research into atoms and electrons. We wouldn't have the Internet, not to mention television and radio, and satellites and everything else that makes up modern technology, without that sort of research. What applications would this SSC lead to? I suspect we can't even imagine it.
*That's what we mean when we say "basic" science research* -- the science is so fundamental that the applications can't yet even be imagined.
Corporations can do research that has an obvious near-term upside. The only way to do really fundamental science, tends to be with government spending.
Did corporations invent the Internet? Hell no. They never would; no obvious upside,at the time (i.e., the 1960s, into the 1970s).
Without government sponsored research, we wouldn't have many of the technologies of today.
I believe we need to spend *more* not less money, on basic research.
I'm sad that my country (USA) is slowly but surely losing its leadership position in science. Our fatal flaw is arrogance; we habitually think other countries are backward; meanwhile, they're starting to take leadership in basic science.
I do blame Republicans more than Democrats. I'm not partisan; I've just looked at the voting records, and the platforms, and the priorities of both parties. Disagree with me if you like; but I've done my research and I'm satisfied that I'm correct: the Dems are *better*, on science. However -- it's not a partisan issue. I'm open to any Republican with the right agenda on this issue; I'll give that candidate my support.
Sunday, June 18, 2017 at 10:07 PM
Ray L Bailey said...
My name is Ray Bailey and I am doing research for a novel I am writing. I am looking for actual locations of the remains of the SSC. It took me nearly two hours to hunt down the actual location of the Headquarters Building on Hoyt Rd. Anybody have any details on teh location fo the existing remaining tunnels and access shafts? Ellis county permits and stuff?
Any help would be appreciated. RLBTechServ@Outlook.com
Saturday, March 4, 2017 at 9:30 AM
Been there and explored parts including remote access points. No mystery here; just typical government spending and surplus. There's no secret base or other use goin on. I didn't see any instances of live power, but if there is it would not surprise me. the county may want to retain a connection for many reasons including potential buyers.
Monday, January 2, 2017 at 6:17 PM
Just like your brother above... Kill your ignorance with a little knowledge... try reading. It was the Damno-crats that killed the project.
Saturday, July 2, 2016 at 1:28 AM
So ill have you know the tunnells do exist, i took a team of 6 divers through the LNAC AKA the Low Energy Booster.
Initially thought the elevator, then down the elevator shaft.
so much equipment, and abandoned vechiles machnery and heavy equipment.
We stumbled into a large what seemed like a warehouse 3 stories down, with 58 fleet vehicles with "DOE" Department of energy logo's, mostly rusted and damaged with time.
We have a total of 96 hrs of video and pictures that has been confiscated by the Ellis County Sheriffs Department.
We were apprehended by the Ellis county sheriffs department, all of our equipment and evidence was collected expect about 9 hrs of video that we had on a small sd card i managed to put in my phone.
The tunnels are intact, with only 10 miles explored we spent over 6 months diving the complex.
which far surpassed our initial expectation, this facility has a total of 16 floors labeled on the elevator shaft, we dove down 9 stories but with the amount of time it would take to decompress we could never go any further as we had limited supply of air tanks.
and the amount of pressure takes a toll on the human body.
i have shown about 6 people our photos and video, they have all made the same observation, there is still live power down there which leads me to believes that someone knows why... I have spendt the last 4 years trying to figure out what this facility really is.
contact me anytime
Monday, April 20, 2015 at 4:11 PM
It was a great place to work. Lots of wonderful people worked there in the PRD, CCD and FD. It was a sad day when we learnd it was to be closed.
Wednesday, May 29, 2013 at 1:31 PM
I bet you're real popular at parties.
Tuesday, April 30, 2013 at 2:34 PM
Used to work with a guy who surveyed and mapped those tunnels out. He was telling me when the funding was pulled, and work came to a halt, all the contractors were paid in full for all equipment (generators, rigs, machines, tools, everthing new and old)and it all still remains in the tunnels. There were 3 or 4 contractors working from different points along the path in the same direction. Once equipment was lowered in by crane and down into the depths, it never saw the light of day again.
Its really kind of sad. This project could have been significant aide in the production of positrons for future fuel sources. Those little guys pack enough punch to take humans to Mars in as litte as 45 days. At least thats what the research shows. Just sayin.
Friday, August 3, 2012 at 11:17 AM
Funny The Generators look New ?? Can you say SECRET FEMA BASE .... The Tunnels are NOT Filled In and the Sheriff's Office across the Street from the site seems Odd. FEMA and CIA what are you doing underground with all those Fancy Generators and OH BY THE WAY your transformers are all hot ..... must be using lots of Power huh Folks ... SECRET BASES well use to be.
Wednesday, May 16, 2012 at 5:13 PM
Yes I remember Michigan was in the running for the site also.
Texas was chosen for it's vastly superior ground qualities- Ha
HA! The tunnels are under water! Should have picked Mich.
Wednesday, March 7, 2012 at 10:12 AM
to anonymous nov 1, 2011 10:18am
you need to get a life dude! you should see how silly your comment is?
Wednesday, March 7, 2012 at 10:07 AM
That is too bad that you did. Potentially understanding how mass comes into the standard model is a worthy question.
$100K per physics PhD is a ridiculous idea, though, unless you are suggesting that lasers be strapped to the heads of sharks. That way, they can look for the Higgs boson in a large tank of purified water underground. Now that would be a reasonable way to find the Higgs - NOT!
Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 8:25 PM
All science is worth doing. This was hardly a boondoggle.
Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 8:08 PM
To the guy threatening criminal charges for trespassing, are you part of the magnablend company that bought the facility?
Would you allow a tour of the place?
Also, did you buy the facility about 3 miles to the south of this main campus, which has the tunnel access?
Tuesday, January 17, 2012 at 11:40 AM
Dear The Owner --
We, the Electric Mole People of Modar (AKA: Your Soon-To-Be Alien Masters. Bwa-ha-ha-ha!) want you to know that we have been secretly using what you mistakenly think is YOUR property for our own nefarious deeds (see: "bwa-ha-ha-ha!" above) for quite a long while . . . longer than you have, you absentee owners. In fact, long enough to claim the place as our own. Manifest destiny, Earthling 1%-wanna-bes! Kings X! No taps back! Ours-eze! Woot!
By the way, would it really be that big of a deal to cut the freaking lawn around the Collider Site (AKA: Epicenter of Earthly DOOM!) once in a while. True, we aren't able to come out into the foetid atmosphere of Texas . . . YET, but it just looks so wrong to the FedEx and pizza delivery guys who bring us our vital supplies.
"Earthlings! You are DOOMED! Bwa-ha-ha-ha!" ("Earthlings! You are Doomed! Bwa-ha-ha-ha" is copyright 2012, Electric Mole People From Modar Earth Invasion Committee, LLP. All right reserved)
Wednesday, January 11, 2012 at 6:49 PM
Buzz Skyline said...
That's interesting. Why are you in Kansas?
Tuesday, November 1, 2011 at 1:40 PM
To the individuals who built this blogsite and visited the Collider site. We are the owners of the property and based on the photos I see you have taken, you have caused considerable damage that we will aggressively come after you for including the damage to the bay door you caused. Also, we will be looking to file criminal charges against each of you for breaking and entering since this is private property you were tresspassing on.
To anyone who thinks they want to visit this property. It is PRIVATE PROPERTY and if you are caught YOU WILL BE PROSECUTED TO THE FULLEST EXTENT OF THE LAW. There is a sheriff's station across the street so you are highly likely to get caught if you are tresspassing. My advice to you is STAY AWAY from the property unless you have written permission from the owner to be there.
Tuesday, November 1, 2011 at 1:18 PM
I am an independent filmmaker making a documentary about end-of-the-world theories and pre-2012 hype. I am looking for someone loosely-connected to this facility to be a subject and show me around the space, even if its just the exterior, while I film it. Whoever posted about their son developing it into a skate-park is the perfect candidate. If you are somehow connected - janitor, used to work there, live nearby - please contact me! Thanks so much!
Wednesday, October 12, 2011 at 3:58 PM
I used to work there.. the buildings didn't lead to the tunnels.. It didn't look like you found the Western LINAC facility. It was about 3-4 miles away from the western complex to the south. That DID lead to the tunnels. I think it was the coolest part of the existing site back in 1990-1993 when I was there. Another sad part of this story is how many families that were kicked off their land that had been in their families for generations.. They even moved historial houses off the land just to do this. I haven't seen the place since I left for the military in 95. I was blow away at it's condition.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011 at 6:36 AM
Sad. Would have been so much more useful than the piece of crap prestige piece that the ISS is.
Monday, April 25, 2011 at 7:44 PM
I'm amazed at the people who are opposed to basic science research. Flashback to 1897: "What a waste of money! They're studying electrons and atoms. Atoms are the tiniest pieces of matter, or so these eggheads say. What good are they? Electrons, so they say, are even tinier. Absolutely rubbish that our government is spending money on this type of research. What are the applications? We should be spending that money on..."
Sunday, April 24, 2011 at 11:44 PM
Thanks for posting these picture. What a cool place to explore. My son is working on his proposal to convert the site into a skate park.
Monday, April 4, 2011 at 12:35 AM
Salivate Like Tears said...
So many comments about government and how it should be or who did what.. Governments are made of the people they rule: in this case, THAT'S YOU!! Not Republican, or Democrat, YOU. You don't have to be one or the other, you can wear the skin of either and speak whatever you will - you CAN think for yourselves! This facility was sh*t-canned because it was friggin expensive, with the ultimate promise of a ~maybe~ as concerning the overall good. Space station = political unity with INTELLIGENT and POTENTIALLY HOSTILE enemies such as Russia. Good idea. (Kinda like making your daughter marry someone in an opposing tribe to keep the peace). There's all kinds of these places all over the world, from EVERY government. We're not screw-ups educationally because we TRY to be, either. But step back and see yourselves so tied to the red or blue party, with your black-and-white solutions or criticisms, and then you may begin to understand why education and culture have sagged; it's where discrimination and self-direction got forgotten by most Americans when they taught their children what was important and noble.
Sunday, April 3, 2011 at 9:37 PM
Think of what we could save if we abolished DHS and TSA...Dept of Insecurity and Transportation Sneaking *ss-pinchers...maybe enuf to build a modern SSC!
Saturday, April 2, 2011 at 12:21 AM
The sad end to this story. How unfortunate: http://physicsbuzz.physicscentral.com/2011_04_01_archive.html
Friday, April 1, 2011 at 11:04 AM