Astronauts celebrate Tokyo Paralympics opening day with 'torch' ceremony in space

The launch of the 2020 Paralympic Games was celebrated by Expedition 65 astronauts with a torch ceremony aboard International Space Station.
The Paralympic Games began in Tokyo this week. Astronauts at the International Space Station celebrated this quadrennial sporting event.

Oleg Novitskiy, a Russian cosmonaut, posted a picture on Twitter that showed the seven current occupants of Tokyo Paralympic Games. It was taken on Tuesday (Aug. 24, 2018). The photo shows Oleg Novitskiy, a Russian cosmonaut, posing with a torch inside one of the stations' modules. He also decorated the ceiling with flags.

The torch, which looks golden in the photo, isn't actually burning.

Novitskiy stated in the tweet that the torch is actually a bundle made up of five tubes, in the shape of sakura flowers with gold trim. "The ISS-65 Expedition crew wishes everyone good luck!"

Related: See astronauts holding their own Summer Olympics from space with zero-gsynchronized swimming.

The 2020 Summer Paralympic Games will be held on September 5. They were delayed last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Officially, they began Tuesday, August 24th. The games will feature 4,400 athletes from 162 countries, representing various disabilities.

Although astronaut candidates are required to be physically able-bodied, it is possible that the space station will soon receive its first "parastronaut." The European Space Agency (ESA), earlier this year, invited qualified specialists with specific disabilities to apply for a special NASA feasibility study. In February, the agency also launched the call to assist astronauts with disabilities.

Oleg Novitskiy, Pyotr Dubrov and Oleg Novitskiy, Russian cosmonauts, NASA's Mark Vende Hei and Megan McArthur, Europe’s Thomas Pesquet and Japan's Akihiko Hishide are currently aboard the ISS.

The seven astronauts were split into two teams, based on their vehicle to the space station, the Soyuz MS-18 or Dragon Crew 2, and competed in a variety of microgravity challenges. The teams competed in "synchronized space swimming" with no weight loss, flipping and weightless tumbling. This video has gone viral. Individual events were also offered by the crew, such as no-floor gymnastics and "no hand ball", which required them only to blow at a pingpong ball through a hatch. The sportsmen tried to hit a target using a rubberband in space sharpshooting.

Later, the crew held an Olympic closing ceremony in which Akihiko Hashide from Japan handed the torch to Thomas Pesquet of France. In 2024, Paris will host the next Olympic Games.

Follow Tereza Pultarova @TerezaPultarova. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter @Spacedotcom