Astronomy

Russian Space Official says Olympic Torch may be Fired into Space



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It's something the ancient Greeks could have only wished for: the Olympic torch being carried to the gods in Olympus and being lit by Apollo, the sun god.

Now, Russia may fulfill the Greek's ultimate Olympic dream.

Vitaly Davydov, deputy head of Russia's Federal Space Agency admitted he is intrigued with the idea of carrying the Olympic torch into space where it would be briefly taken aboard the orbiting International Space Station (ISS).

When the original Olympic Games started amongst the sometimes warring Greek city-states about 700 BC, the athletic competition was held to honor of Zeus.

Now the games are wrapped in politics, prestige, and the promise of bringing potential billions in profit to the hosting country. Each time the summer Olympics are held, the new host of the games attempts to outdo the bread and circuses of the previous host city's pageantry of the preceding four years.

What could be more spectacular than launching the torch into space and having it lit (albeit through the alchemical wizardry of high-tech space technology) by the erstwhile god Apollo himself?

Davydov admits it is an idea that's interesting and merits further thought. "It is not a bad idea," he said. "It is theoretically possible."

While open flames have not been allowed in space vehicles or any space station, Davydov siad he and his agency were open to ideas on how to surmount that problem. The ISS, continuously manned by mostly men and women from the US, Russia and Europe, won't even allow smoking aboard the vessel, let alone a large, flaming torch.

If Russian Olympic officials do decide to send the symbolic torch into space, Davydov believes there may be a "work-around" solution that will allow the feat to be accomplished.

With strong backing from both Russian president Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, the Russian state has forged ahead with bold plans for what it's hoping will be the most profitable and prestigious Winter Olympic games ever hosted in history. The powers that be are well-aware that it will take not a Greek god, but the veritable powers of a Roman demi-god borrowed from Greek mythology—Hercules—to pull off the feat and upstage the incredible Olympics held by the Chinese in Beijing.

Traditionally, the Olympic torch has passed through hands around the globe before reaching its final resting place atop a specially built spire of honor prominently constructed in the host city's main event stadium.

Although Davydov was quoted as saying that the Games' tradition will probably keep Russia from lighting the torch in space from concentrated sun rays, it's something that might still happen. If it does, it opens the doorway on the 21st Century version of the ancient Greek games.

Estimates of the cost of hosting the the XXII Olympic Winter Games from February 7 to February 23rd in Sochi, Krasnodar Krai, Russia are as high as $31 billion. The expense of carryi8ng the torch to the ISS and igniting it via the "touch" of Apollo would be negligible.

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