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Cosmonauts to Carry Olympic Torch During Spacewalk

Former U.S. Olympic athlete Michael Johnson holds the Olympic Torch at Stonehenge, a World Heritage site, in Salisbury, southern England, July 12, 2012.
The Olympic torch has been as high as the summit of Mount Everest, as part of the relay for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. It's going to go even higher as part of the relay for the upcoming winter games.

In the past, the torch has been carried on foot and on horseback, by air, by boat and by bicycle. For the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, the Olympic torch will be transported by a reindeer sleigh and even a Soyuz spacecraft.

Yes, it's going to space.

Carried by cosmonauts

Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy and NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins make up the next crew that is heading to the International Space Station, or ISS. They're launching in September.

Cosmonaut Kotov told space enthusiasts and members of the media at a recent event at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, that the torch is part of the first planned spacewalk of the mission.

"The next crew is supposed to bring it up to the station, and me and Sergey, we are going to take it with us out from the station to outer space," he explained.

Kotov says the cosmonauts will take pictures and videos of the torch during their spacewalk, adding that the space station crew might even have a celebration inside the orbiting outpost.

International elements

Organizers say cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin will bring the torch up to the ISS in November, and cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin will bring it back to Earth a few days later.

A total of nine people will be on the space station with the torch. Adding yet another international element, the crew members will represent four countries: Russia, the United States, Japan and Italy.

Since the United States retired its shuttle fleet in 2011, Russia is the only country that has the ability to carry crew to the International Space Station.

The Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee notes the torch will not be lit while it is in space due to safety issues.