A Russian actress and director have rocketed into space on a mission to make the world’s first movie in orbit, a project the Kremlin said will help burnish the nation’s space glory.
Actor Yulia Peresild and director Klim Shipenko blasted off for the International Space Station in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft together with cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, a veteran of three space missions.
Their Soyuz MS-19 lifted off as scheduled from the Russian space launch facility in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, and arrived at the station after about three and a half hours.
Mr Shkaplerov took manual control to smoothly dock the spacecraft at the space outpost after a glitch in an automatic docking system.
The trio reported they were feeling fine and spacecraft systems were functioning normally.
The pair will film segments of a new movie titled Challenge, in which a surgeon played by Peresild rushes to the space station to save a crew member who needs an urgent operation in orbit.
After 12 days on the space outpost, Peresild and Shipenko are set to return to Earth with another Russian cosmonaut.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the mission will help showcase Russia’s space prowess.
“We have been pioneers in space and maintained a confident position,” he said. “Such missions that help advertise our achievements and space exploration in general are great for the country.”
Speaking at a pre-flight news conference on Monday, 37-year-old Peresild said the training had been “psychologically, physically and morally hard”, adding: “But I think that once we achieve the goal, all that will seem not so difficult and we will remember it with a smile.”
Shipenko, 38, who has made several commercially successful movies, said: “Of course, we couldn’t make many things at the first try, and sometimes even at a third attempt, but it’s normal.”
He said Mr Shkaplerov and two other Russian cosmonauts on board the station — Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov — will play parts in the movie.
Dmitry Rogozin, head of the Russian state space corporation Roscosmos, said: “I expect the project to help draw attention to our space programme, to the cosmonaut profession.
“We need a better visualisation of space research. Space deserves being shown in a more professional, artful way.”
After congratulating the crew on a successful docking, he said he personally edited the film script to properly reflect the realities of the space flight.
Some critics have said the filming would distract the Russian crew and could be awkward to film on the Russian segment of the International Space Station, which is considerably less spacious than the US section.
On the ISS, the three newcomers joined station commander Thomas Pesquet, of the European Space Agency, Nasa astronauts Mark Vande Hei, Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, Roscosmos cosmonauts Mr Novitskiy and Mr Dubrov, and Aki Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.
After the hatches between the Soyuz and the station were opened, the trio floated in, smiling and exchanging hugs with the station crew.
“I feel like I’m dreaming,” Peresild said during a brief televised hook-up with Mission Control in Moscow.
Shipenko echoed that feeling: “We have been waiting for that for such a long time, and indeed now we feel like in a dream.”
Mr Novitskiy, who will star as the ailing cosmonaut in the movie, will take the captain’s seat in a Soyuz capsule to take the film crew back to Earth on October 17.
Before Russia made its move, Nasa had talked to actor Tom Cruise about making a movie in orbit.
Nasa confirmed last year that it was in talks with Cruise about filming on the ISS. In May 2020, it was reported that Cruise was developing the project alongside director Doug Liman, Elon Musk and Nasa.
Last month, representatives for SpaceX’s first privately chartered flight said the actor took part in a call with the four space tourists who orbited more than 360 miles high.
“There’s just a lot of technical stuff that we’re figuring out,” Liman said. “It’s really exciting because when you make a film with Tom Cruise, you have to put stuff on the screen that no one’s ever seen before.”