Back with the gods: Olympic torch goes into the heavens
Saturday, 09 November 2013 15:51

Astronauts take part in relay before Sochi Games next year by taking totem of tournament into the stars

The Olympic torch has ben was held aloft in space for the first time, as two Russian cosmonauts took the relay before the 2014 Winter Games beyond the Earth's atmopshere.

Gripping the unlit silver-and-red torch in the gloved fist of his spacesuit, Oleg Kotov crawled through a hatch and stepped outside the international space station 200 miles above Earth, where he waved it triumphantly.

He handed the torch to Sergei Ryazansky and they took turns posing with it, with the station, the blackness of outer space and the blue-and-white orb of Earth as backdrops. "That's a beautiful view," Ryazansky said.

The footage, most taken from cameras mounted on the cosmonauts' spacesuit helmets, was broadcast live on Nasa's internet channel and Russian state television.

A three-man Russian, American and Japanese crew carried the torch up on a Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur cosmodrome on Thursday, bringing the number of crew aboard the station to nine for the first time without a US shuttle parked at the outpost.

The spacewalk is a showcase for the Sochi Games in February, the first Olympics that Russia will hold since the Soviet era.

Inspired by the Firebird of Russian folklore, the metre-long torch weighs almost 2kg (4.4lbs) on Earth but special tethers were attached to prevent it from floating away in the weightlessness of space.

It will be returned to Earth on Monday by astronauts frokm various countries – Fyodor Yurchikhin of Russia, American Karen Nyberg and Italian Luca Parmitano – and handed to Sochi officials. It will be used to light the Olympic flame when the Games start on 7 February.

Russia is conducting the longest torch relay before any Winter Olympics, a 40,000-mile trek that has taken the flame to the North Pole on an atomic-powered icebreaker and will bring it to Europe's highest peak, Mount Elbrus.

"This is a way to show the world what Russia is made of," Dmitry Kozak, the deputy prime minister Putin put in charge of planning the Olympics, said after the Baikonur launch.

Olympic torches have gone aboard spacecraft before, for the 1996 and 2000 Games, but never in open space. © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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