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Russia flies Olympic Torch to space via Rocket

A three-man crew successfully
blasted off into space with the Olympic torch on Thursday 7th Nov. 2013, ready to
take it on its first space walk in what they said would be a
"spectacular" showcase for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.
Japan's Koichi Wakata pumped the air with his fist as the Soyuz
rocket, painted with snowflake patterns, took off on a crisp morning,
an onboard camera showed. The crew sat beneath a stuffed polar
bear wrapped in a blue scarf, a Sochi mascot.
The space flight is part of what will be the longest torch relay before a
Winter Olympics, which President Vladimir Putin hopes will boost
Russia's image and show what it can achieve, more than two decades
after the Soviet Union collapsed.
Less than six hours after the launch, Russian Mikhail Tyurin,
American Rick Mastracchio and Wakata will deliver the torch to the
International Space Station.
"It's just an outstanding day and a spectacular launch," William
Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for human exploration
and operations, told Reuters.
"I get the privilege of understanding what goes on behind the
scenes ... It's not easy and it is not routine. It is still a marvel to me
when I see it."
Their families and other spectators watched the rocket disappear into
the blue sky, leaving a trail of blazing light. Mission control
announced: "Soyuz TMA-11M is in the orbit" to applause.
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.
"We will have a kind of relay of our own with this torch," veteran
cosmonaut Tyurin, 53, told a news conference at the Baikonur
cosmodrome, which Moscow rents from Kazakhstan, on the eve of his
Tyurin will hand off the torch 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.
"Our goal here is to make it look spectacular," Kotov told reporters
before his mission began. "We'd like to showcase our Olympic torch
in space ... Millions of people will see it live on TV and they will see
the station and see how we work."
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 Olympics are a huge international event that takes many, many
countries cooperating and working together to pull off such a
tremendous event," Mastracchio, 53, told reporters.
"So in a small way, I think it's great that we bring this symbol up to
the international space station, which is another representation of
international cooperation."
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
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.
Ref: news.yahoo.com

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