Photograph by Sergei Ilnitsky, EPA
Published November 8, 2013
In space, no one can hear you cheer. But cosmonauts will take the Olympic torch aloft anyway, on a Saturday spacewalk from the International Space Station.
The six-hour spacewalk was already planned for maintenance purposes on the space station, says Jay Bolden of NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, which manages station operations. (Also see "Olympic Torch in Need of a Light.")
The Olympic Flame travels from Greece to the host country for the opening ceremonies at every Olympics. From February 7 to 23, 2014, Russia will host the Winter Games in Sochi. (See "The Sochi Olympics' Snow Problems.")
Taking the torch on the spacewalk was an add-on to the maintenance work that was already planned. "This is a mission of opportunity, in a sense," Bolden says. "Not a stunt for stunt's sake."
The torch will not be lit while it is aboard the International Space Station to forestall a fire hazard on the tightly confined orbiting laboratory. The torch will simply accompany the cosmonauts on the spacewalk but won't be part of their maintenance efforts, Bolden says.
"It will be perfectly safe; they are very well trained," says MIT aerospace engineer Dava Newman, an expert on spacewalks. "It will essentially be like carrying tools, which they do all the time. And it will be a good celebration of the Olympics and of the space station."
The torch should return to Earth on Sunday, according to NASA's Joshua Byerly, along with returning space station crew members Fyodor Yurchikhin of the Russian Federal Space Agency, Karen Nyberg of NASA, and Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency. The torch will feature in the Sochi opening ceremonies on February 7, 2014.
Follow Dan Vergano on Twitter .
This article gives the impression that there is just one Olympic torch - THE Olympic torch. In fact there are huge numbers.
I remember here in the UK before the London 2012 games there were hundreds of different torches which visited every corner of the country. I think I remember the figure of 14,000 torches being produced - many of which appeared for sale on eBay afterwards!
How to Feed Our Growing Planet
National Geographic explores how we can feed the growing population without overwhelming the planet in our food series.
The Innovators Project
Abdel Kader Haidara had made it his life's work to document Mali's illustrious past. When the jihadists came, he led the rescue operation to save 350,000 manuscripts.
They effectively "tape" their internal organs to their ribs and hips to prevent pressure on the lungs. By Ed Yong.
Latest News Video
Mule deer overcome modern-day obstacles to make the migratory trek that they've likely been making for generations.