Rocket ready to take Sochi Olympic torch to International Space Station (photos)

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All systems appear to be go for the first Olympic torch spacewalk.

The Sochi Olympic torch will embark on a mission to outer space from Kazakhstan on a Russian Soyuz rocket with Sochi 2014 designs on Wednesday night (Eastern Time). The spacecraft was set on a launch pad on Tuesday, according to RIA Novosti.

Video of the torch being readied is available here.

NASA will provide a live stream of the launch, scheduled for Wednesday at 11:14 p.m. ET. The broadcast will begin at 10:15 and run through 11:45. NASA’s website directs to this link for live streaming video.

The Toshiba Vision screen in New York’s Times Square will also broadcast the stream live Wednesday night.

Russian cosmonauts at the International Space Station will take the torch, without a flame for safety reasons, into open space on Saturday, according to The Associated Press. Video and photos are expected to be taken of the spacewalk.

The Olympic torch flew into space before, in 1996 on the U.S. space shuttle Atlantis for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, but it has never been taken outside a spacecraft, according to the AP.

The torch is expected to return to Earth on Monday, landing in Kazakhstan.

Here are photos of the spacecraft:

source: Getty Images
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source: Getty Images
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source: Getty Images
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source: Getty Images
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source: AP
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source: AP
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source: AP
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source: Reuters
Reuters
source: Getty Images
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source: Getty Images
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source: Getty Images
Getty Images

Journalist says Olympic flame has gone out at least 44 times on torch relay

April Ross, Alix Klineman get early Olympic beach volleyball qualifying boost

April Ross, Alix Klineman
FIVB World Tour
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The U.S. Olympic qualifying chase in women’s beach volleyball figures to be among the most dramatic for the Tokyo Games.

Take last week’s Yangzhou Open, the biggest tournament so far in an Olympic qualification window that runs into June 2020.

April Ross, a 2016 Olympic bronze medalist and 2017 World silver medalist, and new partner Alix Klineman won the FIVB World Tour event in China, sweeping Brazilians Ana Patricia and Rebecca 21-19, 21-16 in Sunday’s final.

“Almost didnt get into China bc didnt realize visa was in my old passport, heroes helped, figured out a way,” was tweeted from Ross’ account. “We played terribly in pool, enlisted more help, believed. Called on more help to prepare for unknown teams, fought hard, won.”

The other top U.S. team from last season, Sara Hughes and Summer Ross, rallied for bronze in Yangzhou, 16-21, 23-21, 15-5 over Canadians Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes.

Those medal matches came after April Ross and Klineman eliminated triple Olympic champion Kerri Walsh Jennings and Kelly Claes in the round of 16. Ross and Walsh Jennings earned bronze together at the Rio Games, then split last year.

Walsh Jennings’ partner for an Olympic run is not Claes but Brooke Sweat, which slightly lessened the impact of the Yangzhou defeat.

Walsh Jennings, a 40-year-old mother of three looking to become the oldest Olympic beach volleyball player, and Sweat will play for the first time in this week’s FIVB World Tour event in Las Vegas, which doubles as a stop on Walsh Jennings’ new p1440 circuit. The event has the same amount of Olympic qualifying points as Yangzhou.

No more than two pairs per gender per nation can qualify for the Olympics, adding results from the next 18 months of international competitions.

That means at least one of Ross/Klineman, Hughes/Ross and Walsh Jennings/Sweat will not make Tokyo.

MORE: U.S. women’s volleyball has worst global result in 12 years

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U.S. women’s volleyball team exits world champs before medal round

U.S. women's volleyball team
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The U.S. women’s volleyball team didn’t get to play for a medal of any color in its world championship title defense.

The Americans were bounced in the penultimate, six-team round with five-set losses to China and the Netherlands. China, the Netherlands, Italy and Serbia will play for the medals later this week.

The U.S., which won its first major tournament title of any kind at the last worlds in 2014, squandered a two-set lead 30-32, 15-25, 25-22, 25-15, 15-9 to the Dutch on Monday in Nagoya.

“Ultimately the result is very disappointing,” U.S. coach Karch Kiraly said, according to USA Volleyball. “They made some changes and we wasted chances in the third set. You have to be good at converting those chances against a team like the Netherlands.”

The U.S. came into the tournament as No. 2 in the world in the most recent rankings from August 2017, trailing only Rio Olympic champion China. It had also won the other global event of 2018, the first Nations League, in the spring and early summer.

At worlds, the Americans won their first seven matches before trouble in the second round last week. They lost back-to-back matches to China (a sweep) and Italy to limp into the third round, where they lost to China again and the Netherlands on back-to-back days.

The fifth- or sixth-place finish will be the U.S.’ lowest result at an Olympics, world champs or World Cup since 2006. It earned medals at each of the last three Olympics but has never taken Olympic gold.

MORE: U.S. men’s volleyball team ends world champs medal drought

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