2014 Sochi Olympic torch relay blasts off to space for historic walk

Unlit torch will tour International Space Station before being taken on its first ever trip outside the base

The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic torch has been blasted into space on a rocket, where cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin will take the historic flame on its first ever spacewalk.

The torch cannot be lit in space, of course, and will not burn inside the capsule or International Space Station either – both for the sake of the safety of its crew, and to avoid wasting precious oxygen.

Nevertheless, it comes as part of an extraordinary journey leading up to February’s games, which includes trips to the North Pole, the bottom of the world’s deepest lake and the top of Europe’s tallest mountain.

The Nasa Live TV stream broadcast the launch of the rocket, marked with the pale blue Sochi 2014 logo, blasting off from the Russia’s Baikonur space centre in Kazakhstan this morning.

It was manned by Russia’s Tyurin alongside NASA’s Rick Mastracchio and Koichi Wakata from Japan, who smiled and waved to the crowd as they carried the torch, lit, on board the Soyuz spacecraft.

It will remain off planet for five days as it is toured around the International Space Station’s various modules, before embarking on the historic walk outside on Saturday, courtesy of cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergei Ryazanskiy.

The Olympic torch has flown into space once before — in 1996 aboard the US space shuttle Atlantis for the Atlanta Summer Olympics — but will be taken outside the spacecraft for the first time in history.

“It's a great pleasure and responsibility getting to work with this symbol of peace,” Tyurin told a press conference on Wednesday ahead of the launch.

(L-R): Koichi Wakata, Mikhail Tyurin and NASA's Rick Mastracchio (L-R): Koichi Wakata, Mikhail Tyurin and NASA's Rick Mastracchio

The four-month Sochi torch relay, which started in Moscow on 7 October, is the longest in the history of the Olympics. For most of the 65,000km route, the flame will travel by plane, train, car and even reindeer sleigh, but 14,000 torch bearers are taking part in the relay that stops at more than 130 cities and towns.

Last month, the flame travelled to the North Pole on a Russian nuclear-powered icebreaker. Later this month it will sink to the bottom of the world's deepest lake, Lake Baikal, and in February it will reach the peak of Mount Elbrus, at 5,642 metres (18,510 feet) the highest mountain in Russia and Europe.

The torch will be used to light the Olympic flame at Sochi's stadium on 7 Feb, marking the start of the 2014 Winter Games that run until 23 Feb.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Mortgage Advisor - OTE £95,000

£40000 - £95000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Purchasers

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Pu...

Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Broker / Purchaser

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'