November 6, 2013
Olympic Torch Headed For Space, ISS Spacewalk
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
While the Olympic torch’s trip from Greece to Sochi, Russia in time for the 2014 winter games might not seem like the longest or most interesting journey, Olympic organizers have decided to take the scenic route – all the way to the International Space Station.
A three-man, multinational crew will liftoff from Kazakhstan at 11:14 pm EST aboard a Soyuz TMA-11M spacecraft with the Olympic torch. The team is then slated to dock their craft with the station in four orbits, about six hours after launch.
The arriving crew will pass the torch to cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergei Ryazansky, who are already on the orbiting station. On Saturday, the cosmonauts will bring the torch outside the space station for a morning spacewalk. Ahead of their planned walk, the duo checked their Russian Orlan spacesuits, installed gear and put them on inside the station’s docking compartment.
"Our goal here is to make it look spectacular," Kotov said before his own mission began earlier this year. "We'd like to showcase our Olympic torch in space. We will try to do it in a beautiful manner. Millions of people will see it live on TV and they will see the station and see how we work."
Arriving cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin had a more subdued take on the Olympic spacewalk.
"It's not a complicated task," Tyurin said during pre-launch interviews in Houston. "Just take it out, take a few pictures and bring back."
After the spacewalk, Fyodor Yurchikhin will command the undocking of the Soyuz TMA-09M from the station, the return trip and subsequent landing in Kazakhstan. The return will mark the end of over five months in space for the three returning scientists.
"The Olympics are a huge international event that takes many, many countries cooperating and working together to pull off such a tremendous event," arriving American astronaut Rick Mastracchio said at a recent news conference in Kazakhstan. "So in a small way, I think it's great that we bring this symbol up to the international space station, which is another representation of international cooperation."
A native of Connecticut, Mastracchio helped to build the ISS across three shuttle missions beginning in 2000. The astronaut expects his fourth trip to the station to be very different from his first few trips when the ISS still "had that new space station smell.
"I'm really looking forward to actually spending a long period of time up there, helping to do some research, get involved in the science, and actually use the space station for what it was intended to be used for," he told Florida Today.
The arrival of Mastracchio and his fellow passengers will temporarily boost the station's occupancy to nine, which is the first time it will happen without a space shuttle present since 2009. The nine crewmembers, which include Americans Karen Nyberg and Mike Hopkins, will conduct a joint news conference on Friday with media around the globe. Topics for the news conference are expected to include the Olympics and the upcoming 15th anniversary of the launch of the first ISS module.