In a meeting at Chamonix last week, CERN, the LHC collaboration, and the LHC experiments came up with a 2009 schedule. “Second beams” (as opposed to first beams last year) will start a little later than expected: September 2009 instead of July. Then the goal is to have first collisions at the end of October, making the delay due to The Incident almost exactly one year.
Then after that, the good news starts in earnest. Instead of having a long shutdown over the 2009-2010 winter, as CERN usually does, the shutdown will be short, and we continue running and collecting data until we have something close to 200 pb-1 at 10 TeV, which will probably take about a year, until fall of 2010. That’s great, because it’s just enough for some of the basic discoveries: Z’ and W’ above 1 TeV, Higgs -> WW (if the Tevatron doesn’t see it first), the low-mass region of SUSY/mSUGRA parameter space (the “LM#” points), contact interactions in jets, and maybe a very optimistic extra-dimensions model (see my “Early Discoveries at CMS” talk at Dark Matter and the LHC conference). Running at 6 TeV collision energies was considered, and thankfully rejected, as that would be just below the interesting threshold for a lot of this. (The LHC’s design energy is 14 TeV, which is scheduled for 2011.)
At the risk of sounding naive, I think it’s really going to happen this time. The LHC people must know a lot more about the actual behavior of the beams from their real-data test last year, and given how disappointing last year’s setback was, I’m sure they’ll do everything they can to avoid anything like it. In other words, the argument is based on social reasons, not technical ones, but guessing when we’ll have data is a social science.