Cosmonauts Take Olympic Torch on a Space Walk


Olympic Torch Outside the Space Station

Two Russian cosmonauts clad in Orlan spacesuits conducted an out-of-this-world hand-off of the Olympic torch at the start of Saturday's 5-hour, 50-minute spacewalk to perform maintenance on the International Space Station.

Expedition 37 Flight Engineers Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy opened the hatch to the Pirs docking compartment at 9:34 a.m. EST and floated outside to begin a photo opportunity with the unlit torch.

An icon of international cooperation through sports competition, the Olympic torch arrived at the space station Thursday aboard a Soyuz spacecraft carrying three new crew members - Expedition 38 Flight Engineers Mikhail Tyurin, Rick Mastracchio and Koichi Wakata. On Sunday, the torch will return to Earth aboard another Soyuz spacecraft vehicle along with Expedition 37 Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and Flight Engineers Karen Nyberg and Luca Parmitano.

The spacewalk was a high-flying extension of a relay that will culminate with the torch being used to light the Olympic flame at the Feb. 7 opening ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

After Kotov and Ryazanskiy completed their photo and video session with the torch outside the station, they stowed it back inside the airlock and proceeded with the remainder of their chores 260 miles above the Earth.

The two spacewalkers translated out to the hull of the Zvezda service module to continue the set up of a combination extravehicular activity workstation and biaxial pointing platform that was installed during an Expedition 36 spacewalk on Aug. 22.

After installing some handrails on the workstation, Kotov and Ryazanskiy loosened a trio of bolts and removed a launch bracket from the pointing platform. A high resolution camera system will be installed on the platform during a spacewalk targeted for December.

The installation of a foot restraint on the mounting seat of the workstation was deferred to a future spacewalk after the spacewalkers noticed some issues with its alignment.

For their final planned task, Kotov and Ryazanskiy deactivated the Radiometria experiment package on Zvezda. Designed to collect information useful in seismic forecasts and earthquake predictions, Radiometria was installed on the station during an Expedition 26 spacewalk in February 2011. After securing the experiment's cables, the spacewalkers headed back to the airlock to wrap up the excursion. The task to fold down and restrain Radiometria's antenna was deferred to a future spacewalk.

The duo closed the Pirs hatch at 3:24 p.m., marking the official end of the spacewalk.

During the spacewalk, Yurchikhin, Parmitano and Nyberg were isolated to their Soyuz TMA-09M spacecraft and Zvezda, while Flight Engineer Mike Hopkins was restricted to the Poisk module and his Soyuz TMA-10M craft. The remaining three crew members -- Mastracchio, Wakata and Tyurin - had access to much of the remaining area of the station, including the Zarya module, their Soyuz TMA-11M vehicle and the Rassvet module to which it is docked, as well as the entirety of the U.S. segment of the station.

Saturday's spacewalk was the 174th in support of space station assembly and maintenance, the fourth in Kotov's career and the first for Ryazanskiy. Kotov, who was designated EV1 for the spacewalk wore the suit with red stripes. Ryazanskiy, EV2, wore the suit marked with blue stripes.

This was the eighth spacewalk conducted at the station this year. In December, Tyurin will accompany Kotov on his fifth spacewalk.

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