ISS Crewmembers Take Olympic Torch on Spacewalk

ISS Crewmembers Take Olympic Torch on Spacewalk

Two Russian cosmonauts took part in the Olympic torch relay today as the torch makes its way to Sochi, Russia for the Winter Olympics.  The cosmonauts, Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy, were on a spacewalk outside the International Space Station (ISS) at the time.

The torch was delivered to the ISS on Thursday by the Soyuz TMA-11M crew and will return to Earth with the Soyuz TMA-09M crew tomorrow (Sunday, November 10, Eastern Standard Time; Monday, November 11, local time at the landing site in Kazakhstan).  Kotov and Ryazanskiy, along with NASA astronaut Michael Hopkins, comprise the Soyuz TMA-10M crew.  All three three-person crews are aboard ISS right now, the first time in several years that nine people have been on the ISS at the same time.   A typical ISS crew complement is six, but that usually dips to three during crew rotations as one crew returns to Earth and a week or more passes until a replacement crew is launched.

That rhythm was disrupted for this crew rotation so the Olympic torch could have its day in space and return to Earth to continue its journey in a timely manner.  A video of the spacewalking handover is posted on YouTube and a still picture is below.

Russian cosmonaut Sergey Ryazanskiy’s spacesuited hand can be seen in the foregound as he transfers the Olympic torch to his spacewalking colleague, Oleg Kotov, outside the International Space Station on November 9, 2013. The view is from Ryazanskiy’s helmet camera.   Image credit:  NASA TV

The Winter Olympics begin on February 7, 2014.  According to tradition, the torch relay begins in Olympia, Greece for all Olympic games.  After crossing Greece, the torch is taken to the host country and then relayed over a large part of that country, in this case Russia.  According to the Sochi Olympics website, the relay will take 123 days and be carried by 14,000 torchbearers.  All nine ISS crewmembers presumably count as torchbearers since they took turns passing the torch through all parts of the ISS — unlit, of course.

Russian cosmonaut Fyordor Yurchikhin is the Russian member of the Soyuz TMA-09M crew that is returning the torch to Earth tomorrow and will hand it over to the next torchbearer.


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