A Russian actress and director arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) on Tuesday to embark on a 12-day mission to make the first film in orbit.
The Russian crew is set to beat a Hollywood project announced last year by “Mission Impossible” star Tom Cruise with NASA and SpaceX Elon Musk.
Actress Yulia Peresild, 37, and director Klim Shipenko, 38, took off from the Russian-leased Baikonur Cosmodrome in former Soviet Kazakhstan as scheduled.
They docked at the ISS, late at 12:22 GMT, after veteran cosmonaut and captain of their spacecraft, Anton Shkaplerov, went through manual control.
As the hatches opened, the Russian trio floated into the orbital station where they were greeted by two Russian astronauts, a French, a Japanese and three NASA astronauts.
“Welcome to the International Space Station,” Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky tweeted from the ISS.
The crew traveled in a Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft to film scenes from “The Challenge”.
The plot of the film, which has been mostly kept under wraps with her budget, centers on a female surgeon who is sent to the ISS to save a cosmonaut.
Shkaplerov, 49, and the two Russian cosmonauts already aboard the ISS are said to have cameo roles in the film.
Konstantin Ernst, the head of Channel One, a friend of the Kremlin and co-producer of the film, said he spoke with the team as soon as they arrived at the dock.
“They are in a good mood and feel good,” Ernst told reporters.
‘It was hard’
“It was difficult psychologically, physically and emotionally … but I think when we reach our goal not all challenges will seem so bad,” said Peresild – who was selected from 3,000 applicants for the job – during of a press conference before the flight. .
Shipenko and Peresild are scheduled to return to Earth on October 17 in a capsule with Novitsky, who has been on the ISS for six months.
Ernst told Press that a film crew will document their landing, which will also feature in the film.
If successful, the mission will be added to a long list of firsts for the Russian space industry.
The Soviets launched the first Sputnik satellite and sent the first animal, a dog named Laika, the first man, Yuri Gagarin, and the first woman, Valentina Tereshkova, into orbit.
“Space is where we have become pioneers, where despite everything we maintain a fairly confident position,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Tuesday.
But compared to the Soviet era, modern Russia has struggled to innovate, and its space industry is struggling for public funding, with the Kremlin prioritizing military spending.
Its space agency still relies on Soviet-designed technology and has faced a number of setbacks, including corruption scandals and botched launches.
Russia is also lagging behind in the global space race, facing stiff competition from the United States and China, with Beijing showing growing ambitions in the industry.
The Russians “have lost interest”
Roscosmos also received a heavy blow after SpaceX successfully delivered astronauts to the ISS last year, which cost Russia its monopoly on travel to the orbital station.
For political scientist Konstantin Kalachev, space film is a communication and a means of “distracting” Russians from the “problems” facing Roscosmos.
“It’s supposed to inspire the Russians, show how cool we are, but I think the Russians have completely lost interest in the space industry,” Kalachev told the media.