In September this image was recorded when some of the first protons to be accelerated inside the Large Hadron Collider smashed into an absorbing device called a collimator at near light speed, producing a shower of particle debris. After a fault just nine days later, the accelerator faces a $29 million repair bill and will be working again in late summer 2009 at the earliest. (Image: CERN)
Repairing the giant particle collider built to simulate the big bang could cost up to 35 million Swiss francs (£20 million or $29 million), says the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN).
The announcement comes in the same week an internal report revealed that the planned spring start-up won't now happen until late July 2009 at the earliest.
Repairs will cost 15 million Swiss francs, and spare parts another 10-20 million Swiss francs, says CERN spokesman James Gillies.
The massive collider, the largest and most complex machine ever made, has already cost £5.7 billion ($8 billion) - cash which came from CERN's 20 European member states, as well as other nations including the United States and Russia.
"We will not be going to our member states asking for more money, we will deal with it within the current CERN budget," Gillies says.
The news comes less than three months after the world's most complex machine was switched on and produced its first images. Its massive detectors were designed to listen out for never-before-seen particles produced when two beams of protons collide at near light speed.
Those collisions are intended to recreate conditions just after the big bang, some 13.7 billion years ago. The accelerator will create higher energies than any accelerator before, which some physicists think will flush out the so-called "God particle", the Higgs-Boson.
At the much-ballyhooed September switch on, beams were fired through the complete 27-km (17-mile) underground tunnel. But just nine days later, an electrical fault broke a hole in a tank containing liquid helium. It quickly vaporised, causing a burst of pressure that damaged nearby equipment.
Gillies says that helium leak caused "quite considerable mechanical damage to the accelerator." Repairing it will require 53 of the 57 magnets in the collider's tunnel, buried under the Swiss-French border near Geneva, to be removed and then reinstalled.
Some 28 have already been removed, and all the magnets should be back in place by the end of March, Gillies says. CERN now expects the machine to be powered up again for tests by June, after which particle beams can be sent around again. "We don't have a precise date for it yet," said he adds.