NIF, as it's known, is a five-billion dollar, taxpayer-funded super laser project whose goal is to create nuclear fusion – a tiny star – inside a laboratory. But so far, that hasn't happened.
The facility, which began operating in 2009 after a decade of construction at a cost of almost $4 billion, points 192 football-field-sized lasers at one tiny capsule the size of a peppercorn and filled with hydrogen. It creates degrees of heat and pressure never before achieved in a lab.
Standing outside NIF's target chamber in 2008, about a year before NIF's dedication, Director Ed Moses called NIF "more far-out, and far cooler than anything in science fiction or fantasy."'