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Published on : Thursday, November 7, 2013
The Olympic torch was blasted off into space by the three-man crew Soyuz rocket today on 07.11.13. The torch is ready to take its first space walk — a spectacular show for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.
The Soyuz rocket, painted with snowflake patterns, took off on a crisp morning with Japan’s Koichi Wakata pumping air with his fist. Sochi mascot a stuffed polar bear wrapped in a blue scarf accompanied the crew in space.
President Vladimir Putin hopes that this move will boost the image of Russia after more than two decades of Soviet Union collapse. This is to be the longest torch relay before a Winter Olympics.
Less than six hours after the launch, Russian Mikhail Tyurin, American Rick Mastracchio and Wakata will deliver the torch to the International Space Station.
For safety reasons, the torch will not be lit in what could be a relief for Russia after the flame went out several times since the relay began last month.
The torch will be handed by Tyurin to fellow cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergei Ryazansky, who will take it outside the airlock on Saturday.
The Olympic torch has gone into space twice before, in 1996 and 2000, but it has never been taken on a space walk.
Kotov told reporters that he wants to make it look spectacular, and showcase the Olympic torch in space … Millions of people will see it live on TV and see how it works.
While the red-and-silver torch, designed to evoke the feathers of a Firebird from Russian folklore, is taken outside space station 250 miles above Earth, the flame will remain lit on the ground below.
As well as replacing the gas flame, Russian engineers have equipped the torch with a tether to keep it from floating out of the cosmonauts grip in weightlessness. It was reworked … so that it doesn’t fly away, said Sergei Krikalev, head of the Cosmonauts’ Training Centre outside Moscow.
As part of its 65,000-km (40,000-mile) relay, the torch has traveled to the North Pole on an atomic-powered ice breaker. It will still go to the peak of Europe’s highest mountain, Mount Elbrus, and the depths of Siberia’s Lake Baikal before reaching Sochi on the Black Sea for the start of the Games on February 7.
The torch-bearing trio’s arrival at the orbital station, a $100 billion project of 15 nations, will briefly swell its crew to nine people – the most on board the outpost since America’s last shuttle mission in 2011.
The torch will be brought back to Earth by Russian Fyodor Yurchikhin, American astronaut Karen Nyberg and European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano on November 11.