It was to be the biggest particle accelerator
the world has ever known. It was to be built outside of Waxahachie, Texas
. the US Senate pulled the plug
after $1 billion
had already been spent, and hundreds of millions more would need to be spent just to shut down
the project. The total projected cost of the project was in the 8 to 10 billion dollar range.
The SSC was planned to find the mass and/or the existence of the Higgs boson, the postulated particle that interacts with the Higgs field, which gives mass to all matter. I should remember the energy range--I'd say around 10 TeV should be right. It also would have been useful in the top quark experiments, especially if Fermilab hadn't found the top.
The SSC was a 52 mile in circumference proton-antiproton collider. The superconducting part refers to the superconducting magnets needed to generate the magnetic fields powerful enough to bend the particle beam into the circle. These would have been traditional superconductors at liquid helium temperatures--not high-temperature superconductors at liquid nitrogen temps.
I was involved in some of it in graduate school. The coolest thing I remember is that after 10 years of operation, most of the detector parts would be completely radioactive and useless for science, as well as being nuclear waste. And you wouldn't want to be anywhere in the event theatre when the thing was running. And certainly no pacemakers in the beam tunnel.
It's kind of a shame it didn't get built--the new collider at CERN will probably be where the most exciting particle physics of the next 20 years will now happen. Oh well, most people don't care about particle physics anyway.