Russia to take Olympic torch into space

Nov 06, 2013 by Kirill Kudryavtsev
From L-R: The International Space Station Expedition 38 crew Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin and US astronaut Rick Mastracchio pose with the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic torch on November 6, 2013

Three new crew members blast off Thursday for the International Space Station (ISS) on a Russian rocket, taking with them the precious cargo of an Olympic torch for the 2014 Winter Games in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

In an unprecedented move, the Olympic torch will on Saturday be taken out into open on a spacewalk by two Russian cosmonauts to mark Russia's hosting of the Games in February.

The Soyuz-FG rocket and Soyuz-TMA capsule, emblazoned with the symbols of the Sochi Games and the Olympic rings, have already been installed on the lauch pad of Russia's Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

In a sign of the launch's importance, it will be broadcast live on a big screen to thousands of people watching in New York's Times Square, according to NASA.

The Soyuz will at 0414 GMT on Thursday take Mikhail Tyurin of Russia, Japan's Koichi Wakata and NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio on the six-hour trip to the ISS.

There they will join six incumbent crew on board, the first time since October 2009 that nine people have served together aboard the space station without the presence of the now retired US space shuttle.

On board they will find station commander Fyodor Yurchikhin of Russia and flight engineers Karen Nyberg of NASA, Italy's Luca Parmitano, Russian Oleg Kotov, NASA's Mike Hopkins and Russian Sergei Ryazansky.

This NASA handout photo shows Olympic rings at the Soyuz launch pad shortly after the Soyuz TMA-11M rocket was erected into position at the launch pad on November 5, 2013, Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan

Kotov and Ryazansky will from 1430 GMT on Saturday carry the Olympic torch on a spacewalk outside the station. Russian officials have made clear that the torch will at no point be lit, for safety reasons.

In a crammed few days for the ISS, Yurchikhin, Nyberg and Parmitano will then end their five-and-a-half-month mission and return to Earth, touching down in Kazakhstan at 0250 on Monday.

Joining them on the return after its brief spell in space will be the torch, which will later be used to light the Olympic flame at the Fisht stadium in Sochi for the opening ceremony on February 7.

The return to Earth will draw the curtain on a dramatic mission for European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Parmitano, who suffered a scare during a spacewalk on July 16 when his helmet began to fill with an unidentified liquid.

He described being blinded and suffocating as he struggled to make his way back to the airlock.

NASA said a part of his American spacesuit suspected of causing a water leak during the spacewalk has been carefully packed for inspection by engineers on the ground.

The high-profile Olympics mission comes as Russia seeks to prove that its mostly Soviet-designed systems are reliable enough to continue humans' conquest of space.

The 2011 retirement of the US Space Shuttle programme made the Soyuz—whose basic principles are little changed since the first manned spaceflight by Yuri Gagarin in 1961—the world's last remaining manned link with the ISS.

But Russia has been recently blighted by a string of space failures that include the July 2 explosion shortly after take-off from Baikonur of an unmanned Proton-M rocket.

In an apparent response to the problems, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on October 10 fired the head of the state space agency Roscomos Vladimir Popovkin after just two-and-a-half years in the job.

Oleg Ostapenko, previously deputy defence minister, was appointed the new Roscosmos chief.

Explore further: NASA craft set to beam home close-ups of Pluto

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Trio takes Soyuz for spin around ISS

Nov 01, 2013

An international trio of astronauts on Thursday took a Soyuz space capsule on a rare trip around the International Space Station in preparation for the arrival of a new crew next week.

Image: Soyuz rocket ready to launch new station crew

Nov 06, 2013

The Soyuz TMA-11M rocket, adorned with the logo of the Sochi Olympic Organizing Committee and other related artwork, is seen in this long exposure photograph, as the service structure arms are raised into ...

Space: the Olympic flame's final frontier

Oct 07, 2013

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.

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.

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.

Recommended for you

NASA craft set to beam home close-ups of Pluto

4 hours ago

Nine years after leaving Earth, the New Horizons spacecraft is at last drawing close to Pluto and on Sunday was expected to start shooting photographs of the dwarf planet.

Elon Musk's SpaceX drops lawsuit against Air Force

14 hours ago

A spacecraft company run by billionaire Elon Musk has dropped a lawsuit alleging the U.S. Air Force improperly awarded a contract to launch military satellites to a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed ...

NASA spacecraft almost to Pluto: Smile for the camera!

Jan 23, 2015

It's showtime for Pluto. NASA's New Horizons spacecraft has traveled 3 billion miles and is nearing the end of its nine-year journey to Pluto. Sunday, it begins photographing the mysterious, unexplored, icy ...

Gullies on Vesta suggest past water-mobilized flows

Jan 23, 2015

(—Protoplanet Vesta, visited by NASA's Dawn spacecraft from 2011 to 2013, was once thought to be completely dry, incapable of retaining water because of the low temperatures and pressures at its ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (4) Nov 06, 2013
Hey, Russia!

I dare you to take the Olympic Torch, and the Olympic/Humanity spirit which it is supposed to REPRESENT, to the Arctic Ocean!

Why do you criminalize (as "pirates', no less!) brave GreenPeace protesters for WANTING TO SAVE HUMANITY?

Is it because Russian Leadership is AGAINST humanity? Is that it?

Shame on you latest crop of CRIMINAL CRAZIES in charge of an otherwise wonderful nation of peoples ruined again and again by idiot MEGALOMANIACS and GREEDY HYPOCRITES.

You destroy all decent attempts from anyone to better humanity!

What should the WORLD of HUMANITY do to demonstrate its abhorrence of your latest OBSCENITY against laws and humanity...?

...All should BOYCOTT your OLYMPIC Games!!

YOU make a MOCKERY of decency and fairness and humanity, all OLYMPIC IDEALS

which you give LIP SERVICE to but DO NOT UPHOLD, and you dare to try and host Olympic Games?!

You're ABUSING excellent people who embody Olympic Ideals of Humanity and Decency.

Shame on you, Russia!

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.