Olympic torch, modified for space flight, Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, chrome/ anodised aluminium/ plastic, designed by Blue Sky, Sydney, made by G A & L Harrington Pty Ltd, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1999, flown on space shuttle flight STS-101 May 19-May 29, 2000
Like the Olympic games, human spaceflight activities at the beginning of the 21st Century are undertaken in a spirit of international co-operation, with the International Space Station, the world's largest current spaceflight project being undertaken by 16 nations. Space Shuttle and Russian Soyuz crews are frequently multi- national. Therefore, the flight of an Olympic torch aboard a Space Shuttle traveling to the International Space Station (ISS) is highly symbolic, representing humanity's hopes for a peaceful future of co- operation among nations.
The idea of sending an Olympic torch into space was initially conceived by Australian-born NASA Astronaut Dr. Andrew S. W. Thomas. An Olympic torch and the Olympic flame itself, in a specially shielded container, had flown on the Space Shuttle to celebrate the Atlanta Games of 1996. Dr. Thomas hoped to repeat this event in 2000 to similarly celebrate the Games in his home country. Although NASA would not permit a second flight of the Olympic flame, for safety reasons, it did agree to fly a Sydney Olympic torch to promote the international spirit evinced in both the Games and space flight.
Dr. Thomas approached SOCOG for assistance in obtaining a torch to carry on the Shuttle. For safety and storage reasons, NASA required the standard Olympic torch to be modified for space flight, with its flame-making mechanism removed. Due to its length, the torch had to be cut into two pieces, so that it could be stored in a mid-deck locker on the Shuttle.
As he was not scheduled for a space mission in the year 2000, Dr. Thomas asked the crew of STS-101 to carry the torch on their flight to the ISS. Dr. Thomas did, however, take part in the Olympic Torch relay in July 2000, carrying a torch into the centre of Adelaide, where he ignited its community cauldron.
During the STS-101 mission, the torch was removed from storage and displayed on the mid-deck of the Shuttle for a short period, with a Sydney 2000 flag as a backdrop. As the torch orbited the Earth on the Shuttle it was passing over the nations of the world while the Olympic Torch Relay was in progress, symbolically uniting all the relay participants under one torch.
Original torch designed by Blue Sky, with concept submitted to SOCOG on 28 February 1998. The modifications for flight on the Space Shuttle were developed in consultation with NASA to meet its space flight safety requirements. To prevent fire risk on board the Shuttle, the torch's interior flame-making mechanism was removed. To fit within a Shuttle mid-deck locker, the torch shell was cut into two parts, but to enable it to be displayed post-flight as a complete torch, a tightly fitting plastic plug was designed to hold the two pieces together. This plug is inserted in the base of the larger segment of the torch and extends beyond it to provide a 'lug' which then fits snugly inside the smaller piece, making a secure connection.
Manufactured by G.A and L Harrington Pty. Ltd., circa December 1999. The required NASA modifications were carried out by Harrington.
This torch was carried on the STS-101 Space Shuttle mission, launched May 19 2000, landed May 29 2000. Promotion of the torch's flight on the Shuttle Atlantis, both before and during the mission, was intended to highlight the international spirit of the Olympic Games and the international co-operation of the International Space Station program. (STS-101 was an ISS construction mission with a multi-national crew). The flight was also intended to draw attention to the Olympic torch relay, which commenced in the Oceania region on May 22.
During the period of the Olympic Games until December 2000, this space-flown torch was displayed in the Powerhouse Museum in conjunction with the torches used to light the Olympic flame at the opening of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Made for and owned by the Olympic Coordination Authority/Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games, and donated to the Powerhouse Museum after the Games.