A red-letter day !

Today is a red-letter day for the LHC and CERN as a beam of protons has travelled around the LHC ring for the very first time! The start of LHC operation marks the end of a long period in which you have given your all, and this first particle beam circulating in the accelerator now paves the way for discoveries that will open up a whole new field of knowledge.

The history of the LHC began in 1984 with a debate on the possible objectives of a future accelerator, based on the state of our knowledge at that time. The CERN Council then approved the single-stage construction of the LHC in 1996, giving the go-ahead for the work that has now reached completion. For the past twelve years, physicists, engineers and technicians from CERN and its associated institutes have been engaged in constructing the three pillars of the LHC: the accelerator (including the upgrade of the existing accelerator chain), the four experiments, and the computing infrastructure needed to store and analyse the data. An enormous amount of effort has gone into these three major endeavours and we are about to reap the fruits of those labours.

For everyone who will be involved in the operation of the LHC and its experiments, this 10th of September 2008 is a time for rolling up sleeves and preparing to start work. For everyone who was involved in the construction and commissioning of the equipment, it’s a day to be proud. As a manager, I naturally share these feelings of satisfaction and I have great confidence in this facility that has been so meticulously prepared. I also feel tremendous pride in the commitment and dedication shown by everyone - physicists, engineers and technicians alike - in overcoming the many hurdles on the way to completing this unique endeavour.

What lies ahead is more important still, as the LHC is certain to generate new knowledge that we will share with the whole of mankind. For that is precisely why CERN was founded - to restore Europe to its rightful place at the forefront of science and, in particular, at the forefront of physics. So this 10th September is really just the beginning - now it’s up to the machine and its operators to make the dream come true. Let the adventure begin !

Robert Aymar