Olympic torch sprints among the stars

Two cosmonauts pass the Olympic torch during a spacewalk outside the International Space Station as it orbits some 260 miles above Earth.

The view from Flight Engineer Sergey Ryazanskiy's helmet camera as Flight Engineer Oleg Kotov waves the Olympic torch outside the International Space Station during Saturday's spacewalk. NASA TV

Two Russian cosmonauts carefully passed the Olympic torch Saturday morning -- in space.

Expedition 37 Flight Engineers Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy carried the unlit torch, which will be used to light the Olympic flame at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, with them at the start of a nearly 6-hour spacewalk outside the International Space Station.

After maneuvering to take some stunning photos of the torch floating above Earth, NASA said Kotov and Ryazanskiy stowed it safely back inside the airlock before continuing to perform maintenance on the space station as it orbited some 260 miles above Earth.

The Olympic torch arrived at the ISS on Thursday in a Soyuz spacecraft that was also bringing three new crew members -- Expedition 38 Flight Engineers Mikhail Tyurin, Rick Mastracchio, and Koichi Wakata. The torch's sprint to among the stars ends Sunday when it will be taken back to Earth on another Soyuz spacecraft. After landing, the torch will be handed over to Olympic organizers.

While this isn't the first time an Olympic torch has made a trip to space -- one was taken aboard the US space shuttle Atlantis in 1996 for the Atlanta Summer Olympics -- this is the first time a torch has been part of a spacewalk. You can watch the torch's spacewalk in this NASA video:

About the author

Carrie Mihalcik is an associate editor for CNET News, working in CNET's San Francisco office.

 

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