Russia is set to claim another space record as its space agency Roscosmos prepares to launch a two-person film crew into space to film the first feature film about 250 miles above Earth.
After three months of rigorous training, actress Yulia Peresild and director Klim Shipenko were cleared to join a mission to the International Space Station, along with veteran cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov. The main crew of the Russian space film will be aboard the Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 11:55 a.m. Moscow time on Tuesday.
The spacecraft will reach orbit in about nine minutes, and it will take about three hours and seventeen minutes to reach the ISS.
The 38-year-old director and one of Russia’s most famous actresses will spend 12 days in orbit filming a segment of a new fiction film called “Challenge”. The space drama centers on a surgeon launched on short notice to the space station to rescue a crew member suffering from heart disease. In the film, the doctor performs a weightless heart operation to save the life of a cosmonaut.
Shipenko and Peresild both had to complete a three-month training program to prepare for the mission, which included learning the principles of space survival, performing weightlessness, centrifugation and vibration tests, and practice for in-flight emergencies.
Speaking at a press conference at Russia’s Baikonur launch center, Peresild admitted training for the mission was grueling, but described it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“It’s a miracle, an incredible chance,” she said. “We have worked really hard and are really tired, although we are still in a good mood and smiling,” said the 37-year-old actress. “It was psychologically, physically and morally difficult.”
Meanwhile, Shkaplerov claimed that his teammates from the entertainment world showed impressive results during intensive training.
“The guys showed themselves in the best way,” said Shkaplerov. “It is obvious that they have a vocation, and they very much want this space experience under the name of Challenge to be implemented at the best level, at the best international level.”
Seasoned astronaut Shkaplerov, who will mark his fourth space flight while piloting the spacecraft on Tuesday, will also accompany the couple as actors in the film. Shkaplerov admitted during an online press conference with TASS that cosmonauts were struggling to fit into their characters for the film.
“It’s a bit difficult for us non-professional actors,” Shkaplerov said on Monday. “But we are doing our best. I hope we will.”
Although the director changed the script from time to time for his convenience, the job still seemed difficult, Shkaplerov said.
“I have never done anything like this,” he confessed. “It’s not about memorizing a line like we used to in school. It’s about memorizing a prose text and playing it all the time.”
After 12 days aboard the space station, the Russian director duo will return to Earth with Novitskiy, who will complete a 190-day mission.
Shkaplerov will remain at the station and return to Earth in March or April along with Dubrovnik and Vande Hei, who have reportedly spent nearly a year in orbit since its launch on April 9.
For many years, Russia has dominated space, claiming the most space “firsts” including the first satellite, the first man in space, the first woman, the first spacewalk, the first crew composed of several members and the first space station.
Russian space agency and Russian channel Channel One unveiled plans to shoot a feature film in space last November, months after NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine confirmed that the agency was working with American actor Tom Cruise to shoot a film aboard the ISS.
The iconic Impossible mission The franchise star has teamed up with Elon Musk’s SpaceX and NASA on a new project that is supposed to bring the actor into space. Although Cruise and director Doug Liman both have program their flight to the ISS for this month of October, there has been little development on the project.
Dmitry Rogozin, director of the Russian state space company Roscosmos, which will co-produce the very first film shot in space, was a key driver of the project. In an interview with Komsomolskaya Pravda, Rogozin described the making of the world’s first feature film in space as a chance to increase the nation’s space prestige.
“Films have long become a powerful instrument of propaganda,” he said in June, saying the new film would help counter what he described as Western efforts to “humiliate the Russian space sector”.