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Russia launches rocket carrying three astronauts and Olympic torch

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Russia on Thursday launched a rocket carrying Russian, Japanese and US astronauts and an Olympic torch for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi from its Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, the mission control said.

The Soyuz-FG rocket and Soyuz-TMA capsule, emblazoned with the symbols of the Sochi Games and the Olympic rings, blasted off for the International Space Station (ISS) on time at 8:14 am (0414 GMT), it said.

"The Soyuz FG rocket and the Soyuz-TMA capsule launched successfully from Baikonur cosmodrome at 8:14 am Moscow time," the Russian space agency said in a statement.

The rocket decorated with the mainly blue Olympic logo and the words Sochi 2014 blasted off into a clear skies from the Kazakh steppe.

NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio earlier climbed the steps into the capsule carrying the Olympic torch, along with his fellow passengers, Russia's Mikhail Tyurin and Japan's Koichi Wakata.

The astronauts will now take the six-hour trip to the ISS, where they will join six incumbent crew.

In an unprecedented move, two Russian cosmonauts who are already on board the ISS, Sergei Ryazansky and Oleg Kotov, will take the torch on a space walk from 1430 GMT on Saturday.

The torch will remain unlit at all times for safety reasons.

The torch will then be taken back to Earth by three astronauts now finishing their five-and-a-half-month mission who are due to touch down in Kazakhstan on Monday at 0250 GMT.

The same torch will later be used to light the Olympic flame at the Fisht stadium in Sochi for the opening ceremony of the games on February 7.

In a spectacular torch relay, Russia last month took a lit Olympic torch to the North Pole on a nuclear-powered icebreaker.

am/boc

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/131107/russia-launches-rocket-carrying-three-astronauts-and-olympic-torch-0