Russia has plans to take the Olympic torch into space when it hosts the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. (GARY HERSHORN/REUTERS)

The United States will bring its 30-year space shuttle program to a close on Friday (weather permitting), which is just the opening Russia needed to re-claim the lead in the never-ending space race.

While NASA gears up for the launch of Atlantis, across the Pacific Ocean, Russia’s Olympic organizers are crafting a plan to send the torch into space in the lead up to the 2014 Winter Games.

In a presentation to the International Olympic committee on Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov said the country that launched Sputnik more than 50 years ago, hopes to be the first to include a zero gravity leg of the Olympic torch relay.

“Russia was the first country to send a man into space some 50 years ago. So, we are proud that now we have the opportunity to be the first nation to send the Olympic torch into space.”

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