28 Sep 2013

Cosmonauts to spacewalk Olympic torch

1:28 pm on 28 September 2013

An American and two Russians have boarded the International Space Station after a lightning journey from Earth, on a mission that will see the Olympic torch for the 2014 Sochi Games taken into space for the first time.

Michael Hopkins of NASA with Oleg Kotov and Sergei Ryazansky of Russia blasted off without a hitch from the Baikonur space centre that Moscow leases from Central Asia's ex-Soviet republic of Kazakhstan.

Kotov and Ryazansky are expected to make history during the mission by carrying into open space the Olympic torch for the 2014 Winter Games that Russia is hosting in February in the Black Sea city of Sochi.

The torch, which on October 6 is due to start a relay around Russia, is not yet with the cosmonauts and is due to be carried up to space on November 7.

Kotov and Ryazansky are expected to take it into open space on a spacewalk on November 9, although Russian officials have made clear that the torch will at no point be lit, for safety reasons.

It will then be returned to Earth on November 11.