A Russian Soyuz spacecraft carried 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-grey torch alongside his fellow Expedition 37 astronauts, American Karen Nyberg and Italian Luca Parmitano, after returning to central Kazakhstan from the International Space Station (ISS) following a 166-day mission.
The Olympic torch was launched to the station Nov. 6 and taken on a spacewalk Saturday as part of the official torch relay. This is the same torch that will be used to light the Olympic flame at the Fisht Stadium in Sochi, Russia, marking the start of the 2014 Winter Games in February.
Nyberg, Parmitano and Yurchikhin arrived at the station in May, and during their extended stay in space orbited Earth 2,656 times and traveled more than 70 million miles. Parmitano conducted a spacewalk in July, becoming the first Italian to walk in space.
The ISS has had continuous human occupation since November 2000. In that time it has been visited by more than 200 people and a variety of international and commercial spacecraft.
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