Cosmonauts take Sochi Olympic torch on spacewalk

Cosmonauts take Sochi Olympic torch on spacewalk

BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan - A pair of Russian cosmonauts took an Olympic torch into open space for the first time on Saturday as part of the torch relay of the Sochi 2014 Winter Games.

Gripping the unlit silver-and-red torch in the gloved fist of his spacesuit, Oleg Kotov crawled through a hatch and stepped outside the International Space Station some 200 miles above Earth, where he waved it triumphantly.

He handed the torch to Sergei Ryazansky and they took turns posing with it in a zero-gravity film session with the station, the blackness of outer space and the blue-and-white orb of Earth as backdrops.

"That's a beautiful view," Ryazansky said.

The footage, most taken from cameras mounted on the cosmonauts' spacesuit helmets, was broadcast live on the US space agency NASA's internet channel and Russian state television.

A three-man Russian, American and Japanese crew carried the torch up on a Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur launch facility in Kazakhstan on Thursday, bringing the number of crew aboard the station to nine.

The spacewalk is a showcase for the Sochi Games in February, the first Olympics that Russia will host since the Soviet era and a crucial event for President Vladimir Putin, who has been in power for nearly 14 years.

Inspired by the Firebird of Russian folklore, the meter-long torch weighs almost 2 kg (4.4 lbs) on Earth. Special tethers were attached to ensure it could not float away in the weightlessness of outer space.

The two cosmonauts occasionally let go of the torch, which spent more than an hour in open space before Ryazansky returned it to the station and they turned to other tasks.

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