A Russian rocket carrying three astronauts and the Sochi Olympic torch soared into space on Thursday. The rocket travelled to the International Space Station ahead of the first-ever spacewalk for the symbol of peace. NASA has reported a flawless docking with the space station about six hours after the spacecraft blasted off from Russia's space facility in Kazakhstan.
The unlit torch for the 2014 Winter Olympics in the Russian city of Sochi will be taken on a spacewalk on Saturday, then it will return to Earth on Monday with three departing space station astronauts. The arriving crew members were Mikhail Tyurin, Rick Mastracchio and Koichi Wakata. At this time the orbiting lab has nine people aboard for the first time since 2009. Fyodor Yurchikhin, Karen Nyberg and Luca Parmitano are the crew scheduled to return to Earth with the torch via a Monday landing at Kazakhstan.
The Olympic torch will not burn onboard the space outpost because lighting it would consume oxygen and pose a threat to the crew. The crew will carry the unlit torch around the station's numerous modules before taking it out on a spacewalk. Oleg Kotov and Sergei Ryazanskiy will take the torch out of the space station on Saturday. The torch will be used to light the Olympic flame at Sochi's stadium on February 7, marking the start of the 2014 Winter Games.
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