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

Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky big winners at Team USA Awards

Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky
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Swimmers Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky were named the Male and Female Athletes of the Olympic Games at the Team USA Awards, which took place Wednesday evening at Georgetown University’s McDonough Arena in Washington, D.C.

Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time, claimed six medals in Rio to increase his Olympic medal total to 28.

Ledecky broke two world records on her way to winning four golds and one silver in Rio.

Other winners included:

Team of the Olympic Games: Final Five (women’s gymnastics)

Female Athlete of the Paralympic Games: Tatyana McFadden (track and field)

Male Athlete of the Paralympic Games: Brad Snyder (swimming)

Team of the Paralympic Games: Women’s sitting volleyball

The show will air on NBCSN on Oct. 4 from 10-11 p.m. ET.

MORE: Best photos from red carpet of the Team USA Awards

Best photos from red carpet of the Team USA Awards

Twitter: @TeamUSA
Twitter: @TeamUSA
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Swimmers Allison Schmitt and Elizabeth Beisel hosted the Team USA Awards Red Carpet Show live on Facebook from Washington, D.C. on Wednesday.

The show will air on NBCSN on Oct. 4 from 10-11 p.m. ET.

In the meantime, here are photos from the red carpet:

400 free gold medalists 🏅 #teamusaindc @usaswimming @kledecky

A photo posted by Becca Meyers (@beccameyers20) on