MOSCOW - A rocket carrying the Olympic flame successfully blasted off Thursday from earth ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Games.
NASA Live TV showed the rocket, emblazoned with the pale blue Sochi 2014 logo, launching from the Russian-operated Baikonur cosmodrome on a clear morning in Kazakhstan.
The torch will make its way to the International Space Station before being taken into space itself -- making it the Olympic flame's first spacewalk in history.
Russia's Mikhail Tyurin, NASA's Rick Mastracchio and Koichi Wakata of Japan beamed at the crowd as they carried the lit torch aboard the Soyuz rocket.
For safety reasons, the torch will not burn when it's onboard the space outpost. Lighting it would consume precious oxygen and pose a threat to the crew. The crew will carry the unlit torch around the station's numerous modules before taking it out on a spacewalk.
The Olympic torch has flown into space once before -- in 1996 aboard the U.S. space shuttle Atlantis for the Atlanta Summer Olympics -- but will be taken outside the spacecraft for the first time in history.