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2014 Olympic torch to go on spacewalk

AFP-JIJI

Russian cosmonauts will in November take the Olympic torch to the International Space Station and on a spacewalk ahead of the 2014 Winter Games hosted in Sochi, Russia’s space agency said Monday.

The spectacular stunt will be the first time the Olympic torch has left the Earth’s atmosphere, and will be a dramatic curtain-raiser to the games, which Russia is hosting in its Black Sea beach resort.

On Monday, Roscosmos chief Vladimir Popovkin handed the torch to venerated 79-year-old cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, the first man ever to take a spacewalk, who then handed it to the captain of the spaceship who will take it to the ISS, Mikhail Tyurin.

The Olympic torch will be taken up to the ISS in a manned Soyuz spaceship in November and then carried into open space by cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergei Ryzansky, Roscosmos said. “For reasons of safety, it is not planned for the torch to be lit,” Roscosmos added.

The torch will then be returned to Earth by cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin, who is currently on the ISS.