NASA airs historic Olympic torch spacewalk

On its way to Sochi for the start of the Winter Olympics in February, the Olympic torch made one of its greatest journeys ever today — a spacewalk outside of the International Space Station.

The torch arrived on the ISS along with the station's newest crew members — Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin, American astronaut Rick Mastracchio and Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata — who launched into orbit on board a Soyuz capsule on Wednesday night. It will return to Earth on Sunday, Nov. 10, with departing crew members Fyodor Yurchikhin, Karen Nyberg and Luca Parmitano, to continue on its relay around Russia.

Making the traditional hand-off of the torch on the station would have been good enough, but to make this truly special, Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy took the torch outside on a spacewalk this morning, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Eastern Time, walking the torch outside, all the way around the International Space Station.

The spacewalk was broadcast live on NASA TV, and you can see highlights of the event below:

Russian astronaut Oleg Kotov holds an Olympic torch as he takes it on a spacewalk as Russian astronaut Sergei Ryazansky gives instructions outside the International Space Station in this still image ... more 
Russian astronaut Oleg Kotov holds an Olympic torch as he takes it on a spacewalk as Russian astronaut Sergei Ryazansky gives instructions outside the International Space Station in this still image taken from video courtesy of NASA TV, November 9, 2013. REUTERS/NASA TV/Handout via Reuters less 
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Reuters | Photo By NASA / Reuters
Sat, 9 Nov, 2013 11:58 AM EST

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Of course, the torch isn't lit while on the station nor was it lit as the cosmonauts took it on the spacewalk. Having an open flame on the station isn't allowed, for safety reasons, and there's simply no oxygen in space for fire to burn.

If it was lit on board the station, though, the flames wouldn't look like they do here on Earth, because fires burn very differently in the microgravity of low-Earth orbit. Science@NASA produced a ScienceCast video earlier this year to explain:

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