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  1. #1
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    Default Burning bright top of the world

    Rocket science comes into its own on summit
    Stephen Chen

    Updated on May 09, 2008

    The brief was simple. The flame only needed to burn for up to 10 minutes, be about 25cm tall and be colourful.

    The real challenge was altitude. Even the rebel Greek god Prometheus would struggle to keep a naked flame alight at 8,848 metres above sea level, where temperatures can plunge to minus 60 degrees Celsius.

    In the rarefied atmosphere of Everest's summit, there is not enough oxygen to breathe and winds can blow up to 320km/h - enough to turn a climber into a human kite.

    Then there is the problem of keeping the fire alight all the way up - a vertical climb of more than 3,000 metres that can take three days. Conditions on Everest's peak are so extreme that rocket engine expert Liu Xingzhou and more than 80 space scientists took more than two years and - according to one account - a research budget of more than 10 million yuan (HK$11.13 million) to find a way to satisfy the requirements set by the Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games.

    Professor Liu, a senior adviser at the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation, told China Central Television yesterday that he was happy and proud to be a part of it all.

    He said fuel was their top concern. They had tried propane because it produced a soft, orange flame. The prototype passed lab tests and was sent to Tibet for a final assessment. But at higher altitudes, it did not last even five minutes.

    This forced the team to try more durable and stable solid-state fuels. But the flame looked hard and pale, making it look like an oversized welding torch.
    The aesthetic problem was largely, though not entirely, solved by using a special burning material, the chemical formula for which remains a secret. All that is known is that like the fuel used by the Long March rocket, it is odourless and harmless.

  2. #2
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    Default

    This was shown live on CCTV. Can anyone make it available here?

  3. #3
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    Pete, mate thanks for the info. I had read the political side of the Olympic flame on top Everest (as opposed to the difficult technical issues). Yes, I must imagine it was a challenge for the Chinese scientist to achieve a realistic flame at such oxygen-deprived altitudes. It's an incredible achievement, and I'm sure all Chinese citizens are proud of it.

    In view of all the issues that has surrounded it, I really hope the remainder of the torch run to Beijing can be celebrated instead of being politicized.

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    Default Long March Rocket & Its Fuel

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long_March_Rocket

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UDMH

    Hydrazine and its derivatives are toxic. I don't know how the chemists make it safe to use from a torch. Interesting . . . More speculation

  5. #5
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    Flame achievement a high point in history

    Updated on May 09, 2008

    Taking the Olympic flame atop the world's highest mountain is an achievement in anyone's books. For 100 climbers to scale Mount Everest up the difficult Tibetan route with the torch and heavy television cameras and then assemble at the summit so that live pictures can be beamed around the world takes years of planning, expertise, top-notch organisation and the best technology and equipment. It is something to be proud of.

    There is no doubting the symbolic significance of the image of a Tibetan woman holding the torch aloft, with fellow climbers representing the nation's other ethnic groups. With the national flag and those of the Olympic movement and Beijing Games fluttering in their hands, the projection of ethnic harmony and cohesion is as much about national pride as the Olympics.

    The climb is certainly an attempt to make a statement, both to the nation and the world. It is a statement about the Chinese people's determination to hold a first-class Olympics and the organisational and technological prowess possessed to do so. After all, the national leg of the global torch relay is under way and half of the summit of Mt Qomolangma - as Everest is known in Tibetan - is in China. As the flame is being taken to every corner of the nation, it is only fitting that it should be taken to the highest peak in the country - which also happens to be the highest in the world and the so-called "third pole" of the globe.

    In essence, the feat is no different from what other Olympic hosts have done. Eight years ago, when Sydney hosted the Games, the Australians took the flame under water to the Great Barrier Reef, one of the world's greatest wonders.

    Staging the Olympics is rarely straightforward. There can be unforeseen pitfalls along the way; the protests that have greeted the most ambitious torch relay yet prove the point. But although the event is organised by a particular country, it is for all the world to participate in and celebrate. That every effort is being made by China to make the Beijing Games the best yet is to be expected, particularly so in light of how far the nation has come 30 years after it decided to reform and open up to the world.

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