Russia to send Sochi Olympics torch into space (photos)

Kazakhstan Russia Space

Dmitry Lovetsky/AP

A Russian police helicopter guards the Russia's booster rocket Soyuz-FG with the space capsule Soyuz TMA-11M that will carry new crew to the International Space Station (ISS) as the rocket is transported from hangar to the launch pad at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013. The rocket is emblazoned with the emblem of the Winter Olympics in Sochi. For the first time, it will also carry an Olympic torch to space as part of the ongoing Olympic torch relay. The torch will be brought back along with the station's current crew. The rocket is scheduled to blast off on Thursday, Nov.7. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

Kazakhstan Russia Space

Dmitry Lovetsky/AP

The Russia's booster rocket Soyuz-FG with the space capsule Soyuz TMA-11M that will carry new crew to the International Space Station (ISS), fixed vertical, is seen with US and Japanese national flags in the foreground at the launch pad at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013. The rocket is emblazoned with the emblem of the Winter Olympics in Sochi. For the first time, it will also carry an Olympic torch to space as part of the ongoing Olympic torch relay. The torch will be brought back along with the station's current crew. The rocket is scheduled to blast off on Thursday, Nov.7. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

Kazakhstan Russia Space Olympics

Dmitry Lovetsky/AP

Service towers are lifted to Russia's Soyuz-FG booster rocket loaded with Soyuz TMA-11M space capsule that will carry new crew to the International Space Station (ISS) at the launch pad decorated with the Olympic rings at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013. For the first time, the rocket, emblazoned with the emblem of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, will carry an Olympic torch to space as part of the ongoing Olympic torch relay. The torch will be brought back along with the station's current crew. The rocket is scheduled to blast off on Thursday, Nov. 7. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

Russia Olympics Sochi Torch Relay

Uncredited/AP

In this Monday, Nov. 4, 2013 photo provided by Olympictorch2014.com, torchbearer Marina Kaneva holds her torch near Salekhard, some 1,900 kilomters (1,180 miles) northeast of Moscow, Russia. The relay for the Sochi Winter Games, which began Monday in Moscow, will pass through many cities that showcase the historical, cultural and ethnic richness of Russia. (AP Photo/Olympictorch2014.com)


For the first time in history, the Olympic torch will be taken on a spacewalk.

The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics torch will be sent to the International Space Station on board a Russian spacecraft this week and astronauts will then carry it outside the station. Here's a look at the Sochi torch.

THE SPACE CHARIOT

The torch will travel into Earth's orbit with the next space station crew, who blast off early Thursday from the Russian-operated Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Russia's Mikhail Tyurin, NASA's Rick Mastracchio and Koichi Wakata of Japan are heading to the space station on a Russian Soyuz rocket that has been emblazoned with the emblem of the Sochi Winter Games.

FLAMES IN SPACE

For safety reasons, the torch will not burn when it's onboard the space outpost. Lighting it would consume precious oxygen and pose a threat to the crew. The crew will carry the unlit torch around the station's numerous modules before taking it out on a spacewalk.

A TORCH FIRST

The Olympic torch has flown into space before — in 1996 aboard the U.S. space shuttle Atlantis for the Atlanta Summer Olympics — but it has never yet been taken outside a spacecraft.

HANGING IN THE COSMOS

Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergei Ryazanskiy, who are part of the space station's current crew, will take the torch into open space Saturday when they venture outside the station. Kotov says they are planning to take the video and photos of thetorch, hopefully when the space station flies over Russia and the southern resort of Sochican be seen in the background.

FALLING BACK TO EARTH

The torch will stay in space for five days until the returning crew takes it back to Earth next Monday, when Russian Fyodor Yurchikhin, NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg and Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency plan to land in Kazakhstan.

JUST PART OF THE JOURNEY

The four-month Sochi torch relay, which started in Moscow on Oct. 7, is the longest in the history of the Olympics. For most of the 65,000- kilometer (39,000-mile) route, the flame will travel by plane, train, car and even reindeer sleigh, but 14,000 torch bearers are taking part in the relay that stops at more than 130 cities and towns.

Last month, the Olympic flame traveled to the North Pole onboard a Russian nuclear-powered icebreaker. Later this month it will sink to the bottom of the world's deepest lake, Lake Baikal. In February, the torch will be taken to the peak of Mount Elbrus, at 5,642 meters (18,510 feet) the highest mountain in Russia and Europe.

AND THE CLIMAX

The torch will be used to light the Olympic flame at Sochi's stadium on Feb. 7, marking the start of the 2014 Winter Games that run until Feb. 23.

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