The Olympic torch has returned to Earth after it was taken on its first spacewalk ahead of the Russian Winter Games.
The unlit torch of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games, carried into space by Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy, made history as the first to be taken outside the International Space Station as it orbited some 400 km above the Earth.
The torch was launched into space aboard a Soyuz rocket Thursday morning from the Russian-operated Baikonour cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
A different crew—Russia’s Fyodor Yurchikhin, Nasa US astronaut Karen Nyberg and Italian Luca Parmitano—brought it back to Earth on Monday.
The Olympic torch has been carried into space twice before—in 1996 and 2000—but it had never previously left a spaceship.
The Sochi torch relay, which started in Moscow on October 7, will last four months over a 65,000 km route. The flame will travel by plane, train, car and even reindeer sleigh, becoming the longest relay in the history of the Olympics.
However, the torch was unlit inside the ISS because of safety concerns and outside due to the lack of oxygen.
Last month, the flame travelled to the North Pole on a Russian nuclear-powered icebreaker before plunging to the depths of the world’s deepest lake, Lake Baikal, later this month. In February, it will scale 5,642 meters (18,510 feet) to reach the peak of Mount Elbrus, the highest mountain in Russia and Europe.
The torch will be used to light the Olympic cauldron at the winter games in February next year.
By Maesie Bertumen
Image: NASA HQ PHOTO/Flickr