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Sochi Olympic Torch Taken On Historic Spacewalk 80

rtoz writes "Two Russian cosmonauts have taken the torch for the Sochi Winter Olympics on its first historic spacewalk. Oleg Kotov and Sergei Ryazansky took the unlit version of the torch through the hatch of the International Space Station. The Olympic torch has been carried into space twice before – in 1996 and 2000 – but it has never left a spaceship. It was not lit aboard the space station as this would consume oxygen and pose a risk to the crew."
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Sochi Olympic Torch Taken On Historic Spacewalk

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Keep that Olympic crap for...

    Wait, did you say a spacewalk?

    • Now the funny thing would be if he accidently dropped it floating in free space. I could see web sites, such as when will the Olympic Torch will be overhead. Or bets that it will loose orbit and crash land in the Olympic fire pits just as the Olympics start. Now that would be worth a gold metal in mathematics.

      • Would it even make it to the ground?
        • by Luckyo ( 1726890 ) on Sunday November 10, 2013 @02:19PM (#45385007)

          No, unless you significantly alter its speed. ISS orbit slowly decays, but if it were to ever really hit the atmosphere at the speed it's traveling, it would burn out fast. This is intentional to ensure that most stuff we launch into orbit never makes it back as a kinetic projectile.

          • Ummm, no. You don't get to select both the altitude and speed of a circular orbit: one determines the other. Kepler and all that.

            • by Luckyo ( 1726890 )

              Geosynchronous, and especially geostationary orbit exists. So while you're correct, there's nothing to stop us from putting an object into decaying orbit where atmospheric impact will not cause significant enough friction to burn it out.

              We just choose not to.

              • Geosynchronous, and especially geostationary orbit exists. So while you're correct, there's nothing to stop us from putting an object into decaying orbit where atmospheric impact will not cause significant enough friction to burn it out.

                We just choose not to.

                The ISS orbits between 330 km (205 mi) and 435 km (270 mi).
                Geostationary orbits are at 35,786 km above sea level. That's about 35,000 km higher, and about 1/11th of the distance to the moon.
                We choose not to put stuff there because:
                a. Its expensive to put stuff in such a high orbit (more powerful rockets, more fuel)
                b. It's pretty far from earth, so not very convenient to get to/from, especially in emergencies.

                Furthermore, an object in a decaying geostationary orbit (going at about 3 km/s) would speed up alon

                • by Luckyo ( 1726890 )

                  I was talking about orbits in general, not ISS in particular. Hence "most stuff we launch into orbit".

              • No! When a high (like geosynchronous) orbiter decays, the speed goes up. When it gets down to the altitude of a low orbiter, it's going just as fast as that low orbiter. It will still burn in -- it just takes several times as long from launch to burn-in as a low orbiter does.

                • by Luckyo ( 1726890 )

                  This is not my day in expressing what I mean.

                  I was trying to say that it is in fact possible to match a decaying orbit to rotation speed of upper levels of atmosphere so that upon contact the object will not have a significant speed differential and will survive re-entry intact. Such an orbit is quite possible. Such an orbit would have to be near-geostationary at the point of entry, meaning it would have to be slower at higher height.

                  • No. For an object to be going at 800m/s at reentry (ground/atmosphere rotation speed), then it must be at the top (apogee) of an eccentric orbit with a perigee much lower. And lower is inside the atmosphere, which means it already burnt up. The only other way is if the object is in a suborbital, ballistic path. Think SpaceShipOne or Virgin Galactic. (Or any sounding rocket.) Straight up, straight down. One time only. No orbit.

                    If you are picturing a satellite in an eccentric orbit that has its apogee at geos

                  • by Zouden ( 232738 )

                    That's not an orbit, that's hovering on retrorockets.

                • Is there enough atmosphere in GEO to cause satellites to slow down (and hence speed up, I love orbital mechanics) enough to significantly reduce altitude?

                  Tidal effects will cause them to drift, so they won't remain geostationary/geosynchronous, but are they any more likely to degrade than move higher?

                  • There's enough to cause decay eventually, but it can be a long time...on the order of decades or more. Tidal forces could be a factor, but I'd expect them to be a decay factor -- as seen from the spacecraft, the tidal bulges would appear to be rotating retrograde.

      • by Megane ( 129182 )
        On the positive side, at least the torch would be lit on the way down!
    • by Luckyo ( 1726890 )

      Consider the symbolism. From Ancient Greece to the orbit, we've come a long way as species.

  • Meaningless (Score:5, Insightful)

    by paiute ( 550198 ) on Sunday November 10, 2013 @12:56PM (#45384419)
    It is the flame which represents the continuity with the ancient games. An unlit torch doesn't qualify as anything but a gold plated unlit torch.
    • by rikkards ( 98006 )

      And an ugly one at that.

      "Our goal here is to make it look spectacular," Mr Kotov said earlier this week.

      But obviously not fabulous.

    • Re:Meaningless (Score:4, Insightful)

      by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Sunday November 10, 2013 @01:18PM (#45384563)

      The thing flames out all the time and they relight it with a cigarette lighter. It's just symbolism either way. Personally, I think it is cooler that it was in space than that some well-connected individuals touched it in several cities.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        The original Olympic flame get's first lighten in the original Olympic's original place, Olympia Greece, and then that original flame travels by plane where the Olympics would take place, and kept there to be used for lighten the big torch at the start ceremony - from Olympia Greece a second original flame starts to travel with the individual torches (and with some backups of that flame that used for the cases where a torch is off - it is supposed to be re-lighten from the backups, not as we see many times

        • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

          For the 2010 Winter Olympics, the "original flame" was carried by literally two Coleman-style lamps - the same kind you'd use camping.

          One was used to light the torches used in the relays (and each relayer passed the flame to the next, and the old flame was promptly extinguished and the burner removed so it could not be re-lit. The shell was then given to the relay participant).

          But said lamps were the backups of each other as well. Likely there were backups of them as well as the two were travelling.

      • In theory, the flame's history is supposed to be unbroken back to its lighting with a magnifying glass on Mt. Olympus, though they can deploy extra flames from there to accomplish relights without traveling back to Greece. There have been some incidents where that rule was broken, especially where nobody was looking.

        The relay by athletes, BTW, is a Nazi invention dating to 1936.

    • I don't think you can actually light the thing in space anyways - without a constant active supply of fresh oxygen, fire cannot last long at all in space. On earth, gravity enables the hot carbonized air to rise while fresh oxygen comes from the sides. In space this doesn't happen, so the flame suffocates itself quickly. []

      • by Kaenneth ( 82978 )

        If warm air rises, why is it colder at higher altitudes?

        Christians 1, Atheists 0.

        • by turgid ( 580780 )

          While we're doing comedy, here's one...

          Q: What do you call a cockerel who's lost his voice?

          A: A cock-a-doodle-don't.

        • by turgid ( 580780 )

          And here's one for the Christians:

          Q: Why did the dinosaur cross the road?

          A: Because the chicken hadn't been invented yet.

      • I assume that if the flame is contained in a heat proof glass container and oxygen and fuel is pushed into it from one side while a small hole lets exhaust gasses come out the other side you could simulate the flow heat+gravity causes on earth. Then the flame could continue in a hard vacuum without gravity. That would have been awesome.
    • by Megane ( 129182 )
      This is not the flame, This is the torch that will carry the flame in a few weeks. And maybe already has carried it for a while. Yes, I've heard those stories about re-lighting it with a lighter, but there's no reason you can't "park" an eternal flame for a couple of days while you put the torch in a hard vacuum.
    • by isorox ( 205688 )

      It is the flame which represents the continuity with the ancient games. An unlit torch doesn't qualify as anything but a gold plated unlit torch.

      For 2012, the UK did a lot of PR about keeping the flame alight (the CAA approval for keeping it alight on the flights, the backup flame in the convoy, etc)

      Russia didn't bother with that

      Olympic torch relit for Sochi Winter Games 2014 []
      The Olympic torch relay got off to a rocky start in Moscow when the flame briefly went out during a loop through the Kremlin.

      Torch bearer and former world swimming champion Shavarsh Karapetyan enlisted the help of a Kremlin security guard who re-ignited the flame with his cigare

  • how does fire burn when there is no gravity? where do the flames go? does it become a big fireball?
    • Isn't fire just photons? Is it even effected by gravity?
      • Re:one a side note (Score:4, Informative)

        by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Sunday November 10, 2013 @01:13PM (#45384515)

        Isn't fire just photons? Is it even effected by gravity?

        Fire is generally caused by the exothermic oxidation of fuel. If the oxidizer is air, then convection is required to ensure a continuous replenishment of the oxygen. For most fires this convection is induced by gravity pulling in fresh air as the hot air rises. A candle, match, or lighter will not work in zero gravity without artificial convection (such as a fan).

      • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

        it's the stuff that keeps the fire fed or where the hot material goes that involves gravity in a big way.

        the another reply has a youtube link, but basically things burn in a sphere. with a little fan it would burn quite normally, I suppose.

        but this is quite a big waste of rocket fuel! having it go by chernobyl would have been grander.

        of course the whole olympics are worth paying zero attention to - AND THAT IS THE REAL WAY TO BOYCOTT OLYMPICS! if you can't decide on a reason to do so just print out some of

      • Yes, it's thermal radiation by high-temperature gases, usually ionized. But in zero-G, it will quickly envelop itself in a ball of inert, burned gas which blocks out the oxygen, and it will go out. You could keep it going with a small fan.

    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      The 'flame' is spherical but quickly goes out since there is no convection to replace the CO2 with fresh oxygen.

  • You took an inanimate metal rod on a space walk. Yeah. That's great.

    I think it's one of those "gotta have been there" things.

    • For $50 billion dollars, you think they could have chipped in a little to build a flame carrier to safely reach ISS alight, and a torch that can be lit in a vacuum during the space walk.

  • Actually, it couldn't be lit because you need gravity to have fire; Well, sort of. There's no heat column and thus fire is rather anemic in space. That nice big flaming torch would look really peculiar in space... it would puff out bubbles of plasma that would then float around and extinguish... spewing fine particulate matter and byproduct gas everywhere -- which is, as NASA indicated, dangerous to the crew and equipment.

    • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
      Take it outside and light it. It would look pretty spectacular. Though it would thrust the astronaut in the other direction, so make sure he's braced and tethered.
    • Also a horrible waste of Oxygen.

  • For a split-second after I read the headline, I thought it meant the torch had been taken, as in stolen, whilst out on it's space-walk.

    So lets pretend that that's what it really meant because it makes for a more interesting topic!
    • Just when I think adults can't act even more childish and silly, they go do something like this. Whatever symbolism it may have had is gone when they just stop the reaction and start it again-- why as well put the Olympic logo on cigarette lighters and let everybody start and stop the branded "special" flame.

      • They didn't put it out; it hasn't been lit yet.

        • Does it not seem childish and silly? I don't care if they lit it yet.

          They way they start the thing and carry it around trying to not let it go out... then put it out later. I mean aside from all the expense related to the silly flame thing... completely ignoring the all the crass commercialization, massive corporate welfare, extreme training, and the fact it they lost every scrap of politics which was the point of bringing it back in the first place. I won't even go into how sporting events can be used

      • I thought the whole idea of spending over $50B on a bunch of sports is kind of silly in the first place. Imagine the good that money could have done helping people instead. Yes some people got jobs building the facilities but most of the money was lost due to corruption. All over to see who can skate/ski/etc the best.

      • by Megane ( 129182 )
        ...or they could light something else with the flame for a few days, then re-light it from that flame when they get back. Lrn2EternalFlame.
  • So the thing that holds the part that is lit on fire for some sporting event very 4 years was carried around in space?

    How is this anything other than some PR for the next Olympics and why is it on slashdot? There is nothing interesting about this. Now if they had designed some contraption to allow the flame to burn in space that would be something.

  • So, we have a rather expensive 'stick'. If it isn't lit, then it isn't a torch - it's a STICK
  • An unlit torch is a good symbol for a country where flaming is punishable by prison (at best) or being beaten to death by thugs (at worst).

    Boycott Sochi until Putin figures out "human rights".

    • It's the same thing Soviet people were told about the United States.
  • Design an add-on, a special mount or container, for the Olympic Torch that WOULD let it be lit and burn in orbit, even outside the space ship or satellite!

    It can't be THAT hard, right? A sufficient flow of "air" (oxygen and whatever) to ensure burning and continued mixing of fuel and oxidizer.

  • via some kind of H2+O2 torch - wait for an orbit around the world, and you can say that the torch has been carried around the world. As it is it was just a piece of crap that they boosted up to LEO.

  • Did they have someone running on a treadmill, carrying the torch (lit or unlit) on the flight up? Will there be a runner carrying the torch on the way down?

    If not, it's just a piece of cargo and a publicity stunt with absolutely no real meaning. It is the carrying of the (usually lit) torch that has meaning, not the torch itself.

  • Because nothing screams success like tweeting.

With all the fancy scientists in the world, why can't they just once build a nuclear balm?