News / Europe

International Space Crew Return Olympic Torch to Earth

Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin holds the torch of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games after landing near the town of Zhezkazgan in central Kazakhstan, Nov. 11, 2013.
Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin holds the torch of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games after landing near the town of Zhezkazgan in central Kazakhstan, Nov. 11, 2013.
Reuters
A Russian spacecraft brought three astronauts and the Olympic torch back to Earth on Monday after the torch was taken on its first spacewalk in the run-up to the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.

Russia's Fyodor Yurchikhin beamed as he held up the silver-and-red torch alongside American Karen Nyberg and Italian Luca Parmitano on the Kazakh steppe after returning from the International Space Station after a 166-day mission.

Slowed by parachutes and braking rockets fired to soften the impact, their Soyuz TMA-09M capsule landed on schedule at 8:49 a.m. (0249 GMT) after a three-and-half-hour descent.

”The Olympic torch is home after a four-day journey,” a NASA TV announcer said after the flawless descent through a cloudless sky and a “bulls-eye touchdown” in the tall tawny brush of central Kazakhstan, near the remote town of Zhezkazgan.

President Vladimir Putin, who has been in power since 2000, has staked his reputation on a successful Olympics. His image abroad has been damaged by what critics say is a clampdown on dissent, and a law banning homosexual “propaganda” among minors.

The torch was unlit throughout the space voyage, for safety reasons.

That also precluded the possibility that the flame could fail - a problem that has occurred dozens of times, including an incident captured live on national television in which the torch went out in the Kremlin minutes after Putin presided over the start of the relay.

Cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergei Ryazansky took it with them on a spacewalk on Saturday, posing outside the orbiting station with the first Olympic torch taken into the vacuum of space.

After their return to Earth, Yurchikhin, Nyberg and Parmitano were pulled through the hatch of the cramped capsule, carried to chairs and covered with thick blankets against the minus 4 Centigrade (25 Fahrenheit) cold outside.

The torch was then handed to a Sochi 2014 official and flown by helicopter - separately from the three space travelers - to the provincial capital Karaganda.

Record-breaking relay

The torch taken on the spacewalk will be used to light the flame at the Olympics in February in Sochi, a Russian resort city on the Black Sea. The torch was taken into space in 1996 and 2000 but had not previously been outside the space station.

In Karaganda, Yurchikhin, Nyberg and Parmitano were given traditional Kazakh robes and chocolates with their pictures on the boxes. Nyberg felt unwell and skipped a news conference.

”Space is a serious thing,” Yurchikhin said. “It affects different bodies and different people in different ways,” said he.

Russia cast the spacewalk as part of its pre-Sochi torch relay, a record-breaking trek meant to show off the country's size, diversity and post-Soviet achievements, but the 65,000 km (40,000 mile) relay continued separately on the ground.

Since Putin held a torch aloft in Red Square on October 6, bearers have taken the Olympic flame to the North Pole and will bring it to Europe's highest peak, Mount Elbrus, in the longest torch relay before any Winter Games.

The torch was taken on Thursday to the space station, a $100 billion project of 15 nations, by Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, American Rick Mastracchio and Russian Mikhail Tyurin.

The returning crew also brought back a piece of a spacesuit worn by Parmitano that may have been responsible for a leak that caused his helmet to fill with water, forcing an emergency end to NASA's last spacewalk on July 16.

The torch display was a success, but other tasks on the nearly six-hour spacewalk on Saturday did not go as well.

The cosmonauts were unable to fold up an antenna from an experiment involving predicting seismic events such as earthquakes, or to reposition a platform designed to anchor astronauts' legs when they work outside the station.

You May Like

Jihadist Assassin says Goal of Tunisia Murders Was Chaos

Abu Muqatil at-Tunusi’s remarks in a propaganda interview also cast light on attack on Bardo Museum More

Russia Denies License to Tatar-Language TV Station in Crimea

OSCE official says denial shows 'politically selective censorship of free and independent voices in Crimea is continuing' More

Kenyan Startups Tackle Expensive Remittances Through Bitcoin

Some think services could give Western Union a run for its money, though others say it’s still got a long way to go More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leadersi
X
Aru Pande
April 01, 2015 9:09 PM
The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leaders

The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Buhari: Nigeria Has ‘Embraced Democracy’

Nigeria woke up to a new president-elect Wednesday, Muhammadu Buhari. But people say democracy is the real winner as the country embarks on its first peaceful handover of power since the end of military rule in 1999. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Abuja.
Video

Video Tiny Camera Sees Inside Blood Vessels

Ahead of any surgical procedure, doctors try to learn as much as possible about the state of the organs they plan to operate on. A new camera developed in the Netherlands can now make that easier - giving surgeons an incredibly detailed look inside blood vessels, all the way to the patient’s heart. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Latin American Groups Seek Fans at Texas Music Festival

Latin American music groups played all over Austin, Texas, during the recent South by Southwest festival, and some made fans out of locals as well as people from around the world who had come to hear music. Such exposure can boost such groups' image back home. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Stockton Community, Police, Work to Improve Relations

Relations are tense between minority communities and police departments around the United States following police shootings that have generated widely-publicized protests. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Stockton, California, where police and community groups are working toward solutions, with backing from Washington.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More