Space: the Olympic flame's final frontier

Oct 07, 2013
Russian President Vladimir Putin handles a torch in Moscow on October 6, 2013, to start the relay across Russia

When Russia first floated the idea of sending the Olympic flame to the International Space Station (ISS) ahead of next year's Winter Games in Sochi, most people treated it as a joke.

It was February 2011, three years before the launch of the sporting extravaganza, when a top-ranking official in Russia's suggested featuring the ISS in the traditional torch relay ceremony.

Sending the Olympic flame to space "is not a bad idea," said Vitaly Davydov, who served as deputy head of the Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) at the time. "It is theoretically possible."

It turned out that Davydov was just a bit too optimistic—although not entirely off the mark.

More senior Russian officials eventually decided that bringing an open flame on board a Soyuz rocket filled with tonnes of explosive fuel was not a wise idea.

Besides, internationally-agreed rules governing the ISS forbid fires from being lit on board the orbiting lab, for obvious safety reasons.

So Russia came up with a Plan B: sending the Olympic torch to space without the flame, which would remain rooted to the ground in a special capsule resembling a small oil lamp.

But, to create that bit of drama, the torch would then be taken out for a space walk—something that would look stunning on television and draw attention to Russia's mastery of both and sport.

The torch is now scheduled to blast off for the ISS on November 7 and return back to Earth on November 11.

The honour of taking the torch outside the station on November 9 will fall on Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergei Ryazansky, who went up to the station together with NASA's Michael Hopkins on September 26.

"I will climb out first with a video camera in my hand and other photo equipment," Ryazansky told reporters before blast-off.

"Then Oleg will climb out with the torch, and I will be the one taping it. Then we will switch—if he lets me hold the torch," Ryazansky joked.

Explore further: New Horizons sees more detail as it draws closer to Pluto

Related Stories

Russian cosmonauts to take torch to space

Jun 24, 2013

Russian cosmonauts will in November take the Olympic torch to the International Space Station and on a space walk ahead of the 2014 winter games hosted in Sochi, Russia's space agency announced Monday.

American, two Russians take shortcut to space

Sep 25, 2013

An American and two Russians blasted off Thursday for the International Space Station atop a Soyuz rocket that will slash more than a day off the usual travel time.

Space race for Sochi 2014 flame

Jul 07, 2011

The Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics flame could be heading for space as part of the 120-day torch relay, organisers said on Thursday.

Russian spaceship may fail to dock to ISS

Apr 25, 2013

An unmanned Russian spaceship carrying 2.5 tonnes of cargo may be unable to properly dock with the International Space Station after its navigation antenna failed to properly deploy, Interfax said on Thursday. ...

Recommended for you

Dawn spirals closer to Ceres, returns a new view

11 hours ago

A new view of Ceres, taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft on May 23, shows finer detail is becoming visible on the dwarf planet. The spacecraft snapped the image at a distance of 3,200 miles (5,100 kilometers) ...

Ariane 5's second launch of 2015

22 hours ago

An Ariane 5 lifted off last night from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana and delivered two telecom satellites into their planned orbits.

User comments : 4

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Squirrel
1 / 5 (4) Oct 07, 2013
Zeus in whose honor the original Olympic flame was lit would be turning in his Mount Olympus grave at this
John92
5 / 5 (1) Oct 07, 2013
nice
Viktor
1 / 5 (1) Oct 08, 2013
Squirrel, Zeus cant turning in his grave, he is immortal god)
Karlsbad
not rated yet Oct 09, 2013
Perhaps Zeus spins within Olympus Mons.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.