- Sochi Winter Olympics
Olympic torch blasts into space
A rocket carrying the Olympic torch has blasted off from earth for space ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Games.
The vessel, carrying the Sochi 2014 logo, successfully lifted off from the Russian-operated Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, with the images beamed around the world on NASA Live TV. Russia's Mikhail Tyurin, NASA's Rick Mastracchio and Koichi Wakata of Japan carried the lit torch aboard the rocket.
The torch is headed for the International Space Station, where it will not be lit when it is onboard for safety reasons as lighting it would consume precious oxygen. The flame will then be taken into space itself for an historic spacewalk.
The U.S. space shuttle Atlantis carried the Olympic torch into space for the 1996 Summer Games, but this time it will be taken outside the spacecraft for the first time.
"It's a great pleasure and responsibility getting to work with this symbol of peace," Tyurin said ahead of the launch.
Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergei Ryazanskiy, currently manning the International Space Station, will carry the flame on the spacewalk on Saturday, before it is returned to earth on Monday. Sochi's four-month torch relay is the longest in Olympic history, having started in Moscow on October 7. The flame will be carried by plane, train, car and reindeer sleigh as well as 14,000 torch bearers through more than 130 cities and towns over 65,000 kilometres.
The Olympic flame visited the North Pole on a Russian nuclear-powered icebreaker last month, and is set to be taken to the bottom of Lake Baikal, the world's deepest lake, later this month. Then it February it will be carried to the peak of the highest mountain in Russia and Europe, Mount Elbrus, at 18,510 feet.
On February 7 the torch will light the Olympic flame at Sochi's stadium to open the 2014 Winter Games, which run until February 23.
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