The Russians are taking the Olympic torch relay to a new height—the International Space Station. The 2014 Sochi torch, which will not be lit during its five days in space, blasted off on a Soyuz rocket this morning accompanied by Russia's Mikhail Tyurin, American Rick Mastracchio, and Koici Wakata from Japan. The torch has been to space before, aboard the space shuttle Atlantic before the 1996 Atlanta Games, but two Russian cosmonauts plan to take it on its first spacewalk this week.
As part of a four-month, 14,000-bearer relay before the Games kick off in February, the torch has already been to the North Pole aboard a Russian icebreaker and will be taken to the bottom of Lake Baikal, the world's deepest lake, and to the top of Mount Elbrus, Europe's highest mountain, the AP reports. But in another setback for a Games already troubled by allegations of corruption and a backlash against Russia's harsh anti-gay laws, the flame has gone out several times since the relay last month, the BBC notes. (Read more 2014 Sochi Olympics stories.)