Flying Pyramids, Soaring Stones is a documentary about a team of engineers (led by innovation specialist Maureen Clemmons) attempting to lift heavy obelisks using nothing but kites, and prove that the ancient Egyptians may have used wind power to erect their great monuments. The program ends with the team's successful raising of an 14-ton obelisk (thought at the time to be 11 tons). It aired internationally on The History Channel in 2004.
The documentary was produced by Beth Murphy of Principle Pictures. The obelisk raising mechanism was designed by Emilio Graff, then a student at Caltech, and built by many volunteers from the Los Angeles area, Lancaster, and Quartz Hill.
The original project gained momentum when Maureen Clemmons contacted the Aeronautics department at Caltech with her proposal that the Egyptians may have used wind to build their monuments. In 1999 Prof. Mory Gharib proposed the project to Emilio Graff, then a sophomore student. The design of the lifting rig was based on that used by Domenico Fontana to raise the 330-ton obelisk in front of St. Peter's basilica in The Vatican in 1586.
The original 3.5-ton "test" obelisk was raised on May 19th, 2001, and again on June 23rd, 2001. In the latter test, the obelisk was completely raised off the ground in less than one minute of kite air-time. The kite used was a 420-square-foot (39 m2) parafoil flown from the ground. This obelisk was given to the City of Quartz Hill and now stands in front of City Hall.
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