olympic-liftoff

Olympic torch launches into space (video, photos)

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We have liftoff.

An Olympic torch blasted into space aboard a Russian rocket in a special part of the Sochi torch relay from Kazakhstan at 11:14 ET on Wednesday night.

NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio, Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin and Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata took the torch aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket with Sochi 2014 designs.

An Olympic torch has gone into space at least once before. A ceremonial torch went on the space shuttle Atlantis to the International Space Station before the 2000 Olympics, but this will be the first time it will go into open space on a spacewalk, scheduled for Saturday.

Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy will take the torch as part of a six-hour spacewalk beginning at 9:30 a.m. ET, according to Space.com. It will be tethered to make sure it doesn’t fly away.

The torch will not be lit on the expedition for safety reasons. Photos and video are expected to be made available after the spacewalk.

“We’d like to showcase our Olympic torch in space,” Kotov said, according to Engineering & Technology magazine. “We will try to do it in a beautiful manner. Millions of people will see it live on TV, and they will see the station and how we work.”

UPDATE: The torch reached the International Space Station on Thursday morning.

The torch is expected to return to Earth at 9:50 p.m. ET on Sunday, landing in Kazakhstan.

The crew that will stay at the International Space Station for six months will be able to watch the Olympics (on a delay), according to Interfax.

One of the three Sochi Olympic mascots — a polar bear — was also aboard the rocket:

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Screencap via Space.com

Here are photos from before the launch:

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Journalist says torch flame has gone out at least 44 times

‘Final Five’ meets Beyoncé at VMAs (video)

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NEW YORK (AP) — Four of the Final Five gymnastics greats from the Rio Olympics wished ailing teammate Gabby Douglas well and got hugs from best female video winner Beyoncé on Sunday night at the MTV Video Music Awards.

Simone Biles, in a girly red mini dress, had an attack of the giggles as she shared the stage with Aly Raisman, Laurie Hernandez and Madison Kocian.

“The fifth member of our team, Gabby Douglas, is having medical issues and unfortunately couldn’t make it tonight,” Biles said. “Feel better Gabby!”

The four took turns introducing Beyoncé and her contenders for the award. Kocian said, “Together with our teammate Gabby we accomplished something bigger than ourselves.”

Between them, the five won nine medals, breaking the record of eight won by the 1984 and 2008 USA women’s gymnastics teams.

“The five women nominated for best female video worked hard to be on top of their games,” Raisman said from the VMA stage. “They’re role models for us as we hope to be to a younger generation of women.”

VIDEO: Biles welcomed home with cheerleaders, band, police escort

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Gabby Douglas hospitalized, misses VMAs

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NEW YORK (AP) — Olympic gymnastics star Gabby Douglas was hospitalized Sunday night, forcing her to miss a scheduled appearance with her U.S. teammates at the MTV Video Music Awards.

“Gabby is back in the hospital tonight being treated for a seriously infected past mouth injury. She continues to have deep swelling and adverse reactions to medications,” publicist Lesley Burbridge said in an email to The Associated Press.

Earlier Sunday, 20-year-old Douglas posted on social media that she was out of the hospital.

Douglas had been scheduled to present an award alongside teammates Simone Biles, Laurie Hernandez, Madison Kocian and Aly Raisman at Madison Square Garden.

VIDEO: Biles welcomed home with cheerleaders, band, police escort