Although Olympic torches have traveled into space before, Nov. 9, 2013, will go down in history as the day the Olympic torch for the 2014 Winter Olympics was a part of a very special relay -- a spacewalk. Today, the torch accompanied the return of Expedition 37 Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and Flight Engineers Karen Nyberg and Luca Parmitano when their Soyuz TMA-09M spacecraft touched down on the Kazakhstan Steppes.
Pictured here are Expedition 38 members JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata, Roscosmos cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin and NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio on Nov. 7 as they made their way to the awaiting Soyuz rocket that would carry the Olympic torch on the first leg of its journey into space.
The Olympic torch commemorates the lead-up to the 2014 Winter Olympics that will be held in Sochi, Russia. Before launch, the Expedition 38 Soyuz rocket was painted in Olympic artwork at Baikonur Cosmodrome in Baikonur, Kazakhstan.
A Russian police helicopter guards the Russia's booster rocket Soyuz-FG with the space capsule Soyuz TMA-11M that carried a new crew to the International Space Station as the rocket is transported from hangar to the launch pad via train in Kazakhstan.
An armoured security vehicle is driven in front of the Soyuz TMA-11M spacecraft, emblazoned with the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games logo and a blue-and-white snowflake pattern, before a launch at the Baikonur cosmodrome Nov. 7, 2013.
The Soyuz TMA-11M spacecraft decorated with the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games logo and a blue-and-white snowflake pattern, blasts off from the launch pad at the Baikonur cosmodrome November 7, 2013.
An all veteran crew from the U.S, Russian and Japanese space agencies launched to the space station on Nov. 7 with a very special payload aboard -- an Olympic torch, part of a high-profile buildup to the 2014 Winter Games in Russia.
Expedition 37 commander Fyodor Yurchikhin (L) shakes hands with Expedition 38 cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin after Tyurin handed over the Olympic torch that will be used to light the Olympic flame for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
A giant screen at the Mission Control Center in Korolyov, near Moscow, Russia, on Nov. 7 shows Expedition 38 Soyuz Commander Mikhail Tyurin of Roscosmos with the Olympic torch. Nine crew members were temporarily accommodated at the orbiting outpost while the torch was exchanged between the Expedition 37 and 38 crews.
Cosmonaut Oleg Kotov took the Olympic torch for a historic spacewalk outside the International Space Station on Nov. 9.
The Olympic torch is handled by spacewalking cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazansky on Nov. 9.
The Soyuz TMA-09M spacecraft backs away from the International Space Station shortly after undocking at 6:26 p.m. EST Sunday.
The Soyuz TMA-09M is seen moments before it lands in Kazakstan with the crew of Expedition 37.
NASA Flight Engineer Karen Nyberg, left, Expedition 37 Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin of Roscosmos, center holding the Olympic torch, and ESA Flight Engineer Luca Parmitano sit in chairs outside the Soyuz capsule just minutes after they landed in Kazakhstan