Russia said it plans to send an Olympic torch into space as part of a larger torch relay ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. The unlit torch is destined for the Soyuz TMA-11M spacecraft, where two Russian cosmonauts will take the Olympic torch on a spacewalk.
The Russian Federal Space Agency, which made the announcement on Monday, said the event will mark the first time the Olympic torch has gone into space. The space agency's General Director Vladimir Popovkin and Dmitry Chernyshenko, president of the Sochi 2014 Olympics Organizing Committee, brokered the deal to send the Olympic torch into space.
"I want to thank the Federal Space Agency for its support which will enable us to take the Sochi 2014 OlympicTorch Relay to the final frontier," Chernyshenko said.
In a statement, the Russian Federal Space Agency said the Soyuz TMA-11M flight to the International Space Station is planned for early November.
Once in space, Russian cosmonauts Sergei Ryazansky and Oleg Kotov will take the torch on a spacewalk. On Monday, Popovkin handed the torch to Alexey Leonov, a retired Russian cosmonaut and the first man to perform a spacewalk, who then passed it to Mikhail Tyurin, captain of the Soyuz TMA-11M flight. The Olympic torch will be returned to earth by cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin, who's already on the space station.
The Olympic Torch Relay will start in Russia on Oct. 7, 2013 and through its four-month tour will travel a distance of 65,000 kilometers, or about 40,389 miles.
The Olympic Torch Relay will travel by car, plane, train, reindeer sleigh and now a spacecraft. As many as 14,000 people are expected to carry the torch during the relay, with more than 130 million spectators expected to be on hand as it travels through the various regions, leading up to the opening ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics on Feb. 7, 2014.