Olympic Torch Lands Back on Earth

It was launched Thursday as part of a Russian stunt before the 2014 Winter Olympics

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Shamil Zhumatov / REUTERS

Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin holds the 2014 Olympic torch after landing near the town of Zhezkazgan in central Kazakhstan November 11, 2013.

An International Space Station crew landed safely in Kazakhstan on Monday, carrying the Olympic Torch, which was the first to be displayed in the vast openness of space.

Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin, returning to Earth after 166 days on the International Space Station, held up the torch, which was the first one displayed outside of a spacecraft. It blasted off on Thursday — unlit, of course, due to the hazard of an open flame in a space shuttle — and was waved outside during a space walk on Saturday.

Olympic torches have been brought on space missions before the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games, but the Russian torch was the first one taken into open space. The space leg is part of the elaborate 40,000-mile relay leading to to the Winter Olympics in Sochi in February, the first Olympics in Russia in the post-Soviet era.