Two Russian cosmonauts have taken an Olympic torch into open space for the first time.
Oleg Kotov and Sergei Ryazansky went on a spacewalk with it – more than 260 miles (420km) above the Earth – as part of the torch relay for the Sochi 2014 Winter Games.
The metre-long unlit torch was tethered to Kotov’s spacesuit to ensure it did not float away, but occasionally he and Ryazansky let go of it.
Kotov waved it triumphantly outside the International Space Station (ISS), where they are based, while he floated almost directly above Australia.
“Beautiful,” said Ryazansky, as he watched his fellow cosmonaut.
The pair exchanged the torch and filmed the event using high-tech video and photo equipment.
The torch spent more than an hour in open space before Ryazansky returned it to the station and they turned to other tasks.
Last Thursday, a three-man Russian, American and Japanese crew had carried it up on a Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur launch facility in Kazakhstan, bringing the number of crew aboard the station to nine.
It will be taken back to Earth on Monday by Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin, US astronaut Karen Nyberg and Italian Luca Parmitano, of the European Space Agency, and handed off to Sochi 2014 officials.
The torch will be used to light the Olympic flame when the Games start on February 7.
They will be the first Olympics that Russia has hosted since the Soviet era and a crucial event for President Vladimir Putin, who has been in power for nearly 14 years.
Russia had originally contemplated sending the actual flame up to the station by encasing it in a special lantern, but internationally agreed rules governing the ISS forbid flames from being lit because they would burn up the limited supplies of oxygen available to the crew.
The feather-shaped silver and red symbol of peace and friendship has already been sent to the North Pole aboard a nuclear-powered icebreaker and is still set to visit the bottom of Baikal, the world’s deepest freshwater lake.
The torch also visited the ISS ahead of the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta and the 2000 event in Sydney, but it has never before been taken out on a spacewalk.
Cool stuff, but truth be told.
What do we aim to achieve by taking it to the moon? To tell aliens that we rule the world, come on *just saying*.
Its Parker baby