Sochi Winter Olympics torch relay to include ISS spacewalk

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In what will be a truly unique event, the Olympic torch for the 2014 Winter Games will ride up to the International Space Station on Soyuz TMA-11M in November. The simulated flame will then be taken outside of the orbital outpost during Russian EVA-36, before returning to Earth on Soyuz TMA-09M.



ISS and the 2014 Winter Olympics:

The 2014 Winter Olympics – the 22nd Winter Games – will be held between the 7th and 23rd February, 2014. Sochi was selected as the host city on 4 July, 2007 during the 119th IOC Session in Guatemala City, defeating bids from Salzburg, Austria; and Pyeongchang, South Korea.

This will be the first Olympic Games to be held in the Russian Federation, following on from the 1980 Summer Olympics, which were held in Moscow during the era of the Soviet Union.

The torch relay will begin in Moscow on October 7, 2013 – before passing 83 Russian cities and arriving at Sochi on the day of the opening ceremony, February 7, 2014. However, there will be a twist during the November leg of the relay.

Per L2 sources in the L2 Flight Assignment Section- and since reported by the Russian media – part of the relay will take place at the International Space Station (ISS), using a torch with a simulated flame.

Soyuz TMA dockingTo achieve the required timeline, planners have moved forward the schedule for the expeditions, by changing the launch date of the Soyuz TMA-11M crew – consisting of Mikhail Vladislavovich Tyurin (Roscosmos), Rick Mastracchio (NASA) and Koichi Wakata (JAXA) – from November 25 to November 7.

This will allow for a four day direct hand-over, with Soyuz TMA-09M – and its crew of Karen Nyberg (NASA), Fyodor Yurchikhin (Roscosmos) and Luca Parmitano (ESA) – returning on November 11.

With the torch heading uphill to the Station on Soyuz TMA-11M, a Russian EVA will take place in-between the four day handover.

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Russian EVAThe spacewalk – known as RS EVA-36 – is a required task, which will include the installation of the high-resolution camera “UrtheCast” on universal workplace URM-D, located on Zvezda module.

However, it will also include a first-of-its-kind event, as the plan includes the simulated Olympic torch to be taken outside of the ISS, allowing for a leg of the relay to take place in the vacuum of space.

The torch relay EVA will be performed by the two Russian cosmonauts from the Expedition 37/8 crew, namely Oleg Kotov and Sergei Ryazansky.

Soyuz TMA-09MWith the torch brought back inside the ISS, it will then fly back to Earth on the departing Soyuz TMA-09M, which will be undocking from MRM-1 Rassvet port.

All that is known about the torch that will ride into space is that it is an “imitation flame”, for reasons that are obvious when considering both the safety requirements inside the vehicles involved, and the vacuum of space outside the ISS.

As part of the schedule realignment, the undocking of Europe’s ATV-4 cargo ship will now take place on November 4, clearing the Zvezda Service Module for the arrival of Soyuz TMA-11M.

Following the departure of Soyuz TMA-09M, November 18 will mark the re-location of Soyuz TMA-11M from the Zvezda SM to the MRM-1 Rassvet port, followed by the arrival of the Russian cargo ship Progress M-21M to the Zvezda SM on November 23.

The torch ahead of the STS-79 missionThe previous associations between the space program and the Olympic torch were seen during STS-101, when a replica of the Olympic torch was carried aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis.  The torch relay also passed through the Kennedy Space Center, en-route to the Atlanta Games, ahead of STS-79′s mission to MIR.

On the Russian side, the Salyut 6 space station cosmonauts – Leonid Popov and Valery Ryumin – had a role in the opening ceremony of the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

Also, Olympic Cauldron at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum – which hosted the 1984 Summer Games – was lit for several days in 1986, in memory of Space Shuttle Challenger and her crew, lost during the disaster of STS-51L.

(Images: Via NASA.gov)

(NSF and L2 are providing full ISS and Visiting Vehicle – both space agency and commercial – coverage).

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