Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergei Ryazansky are taking the torch for the Sochi Winter Olympics on its first historic spacewalk, ahead of next year’s games.
Oleg Kotov and Sergei Ryazansky took the unlit version of the torch through the hatch of the International Space Station (ISS) at 14:34 GMT.
Live footage showed Oleg Kotov waving the torch 261 miles above Earth.
A three-man crew took the torch up to the space station on a Russian Soyuz rocket on Thursday.
The rocket blasted off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan crewed by three cosmonauts – Russia’s Mikhail Tyurin, American Rick Mastracchio and Koichi Wakata from Japan.
The crew handed the Olympic symbol to Oleg Kotov and Sergei Ryazansky, who were already on the orbiting station ahead of Saturday’s spacewalk.
The two cosmonauts took pictures and videos of each other holding the torch using helmet cameras.
The torch, which was tethered to their bulky spacesuits, was to spend up to six hours in open space.
In addition to the photo opportunity, Oleg Kotov and Sergei Ryazansky were carrying out some maintenance on the orbiting station.
The event is seen as part of a rebranding exercise by Russia designed to portray it as a strong, modern country.
“Our goal here is to make it look spectacular,” Oleg Kotov said earlier this week.
“We’d like to showcase our Olympic torch in space. We will try to do it in a beautiful manner. Millions of people will see it live on TV and they will see the station and see how we work.”
The Olympic torch has been carried into space twice before – in 1996 and 2000 – but it has never left a spaceship. It is not being lit aboard the space station as this would consume oxygen and pose a risk to the crew.
The Sochi torch will then be returned to Earth and used to light the Olympic cauldron in February next year.
The trip to the space station is all part of elaborate preparations for Russia’s first Olympics since the Soviet era. The games are the most expensive Olympics so far, costing around $50 billion (1,620 billion roubles).
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