New space crew joins ISS on Olympic torch mission

New space crew joins ISS on Olympic torch mission
The Soyuz TMA-10M spacecraft carrying the International Space Station (ISS) crew of US astronaut US astronaut Michael Hopkins, Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy blasts off from the launch pad.

BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan - An American and two Russians Thursday boarded the International Space Station after a lightning journey from Earth, on a mission that will see the Olympic torch for the 2014 Sochi Games taken into space for the first time.

Michael Hopkins of NASA and Oleg Kotov and Sergei Ryazansky of Russia blasted off without a hitch from the Baikonur space centre that Moscow leases from Central Asia's ex-Soviet republic of Kazakhstan.

Their Soyuz-TMA-10M capsule docked successfully with the ISS just six hours later, in a new short cut route now used by the Russian space agency. The new trio shortly afterwards joined the existing three-person crew on board.

The new team was greeted on board by Russian commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and his two flight engineers - Karen Nyberg of NASA and Italian Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency.

Kotov and Ryazansky are expected to make history during the mission by carrying into open space the Olympic torch for the 2014 Winter Games that Russia is hosting in February in the Black Sea city of Sochi.

The torch, which on October 6 is due to start a relay around Russia, is not yet with the cosmonauts and is due to be carried up to space by the next Soyuz crew, who are due to travel to the ISS on November 7.

Kotov and Ryazansky are expected to take it into open space on a spacewalk on November 9, although Russian officials have made clear that the torch will at no point be lit, for safety reasons.

It will then be returned to Earth by Yurchikhin when he returns home with his two crewmates Parmitano and Nyberg days later on November 11.

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