A Russian actress and director arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) Tuesday to best the United States and film the first film in orbit.
The Russian crew is set to beat a Hollywood project announced last year by “Mission Impossible” star Tom Cruise in collaboration with NASA and Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
Actress Yulia Peresild, 37, and film director Klim Shipenko, 38, took off as scheduled from Russia’s leased Baikonur Cosmodrome in ex-Soviet Kazakhstan.
But they docked late to the ISS at 1222 GMT after veteran cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov switched to manual controls.
“Welcome to the ISS!” Russia’s space agency Roscosmos said on Twitter.
The crew traveled aboard the Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft for a 12-day mission to the ISS to film scenes for “The Challenge”.
The film’s plot, which has mostly been kept under wraps with its budget, was revealed by Roscosmos to center around a female surgeon who is sent to the ISS to rescue an astronaut.
Shkaplerov and two other Russian astronauts aboard the ISS are said to have cameo roles in the film.
The ISS crew, which also includes a Frenchman, a Japanese and three NASA astronauts, will welcome newcomers when the hatch opens at approximately 1410 GMT.
– ‘it was difficult’ –
“It was tough psychologically, physically and emotionally… but I think when we reach our goal all the challenges don’t seem so bad,” Peresild – who was selected from 3,000 applicants for the role – said. Said in a pre-flight press conference on Monday.
In line with a religiously observed pre-flight tradition by the astronauts, the crew said on Sunday they watched the classic Soviet film “The White Sun of the Desert.”
Shipenko and Peresild are expected to return to Earth on October 17 in a capsule with astronaut Oleg Novitsky, who has been on the ISS for the past six months.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Tuesday, “Space is where we lead, where despite everything we maintain a fairly confident position.”
If successful, the mission would join a long list of firsts for Russia’s space industry.
The Soviet Union launched the first satellite, Sputnik, and sent the first animal, a dog named Laika, into orbit the first man, Yuri Gagarin, and the first woman, Valentina Tereshkova.
But compared to the Soviet era, modern Russia has struggled to innovate and its space industry is fighting to secure state funding with the Kremlin prioritizing military spending.
Its space agency still relies on Soviet-designed technology and has suffered several setbacks, including corruption scandals and failed 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 ‘lost interest’ –
Roscosmos also suffered a setback last year after SpaceX successfully delivered astronauts to the ISS, costing Russia a monopoly on travel to the orbital station.
For political analyst Konstantin Kalachev, the space film is a matter of PR and a way to “distract” the Russians from the “problems” facing Roscosmos.
“It’s going to inspire the Russians, it shows how cool we are, but I think the Russians have completely lost interest in the space industry,” Kalachev told AFP.
In a bid to shore up its image and diversify its revenues, Russia’s space program revealed this year that it would revive its tourism program to bring fee-paying adventurers to the ISS.
After a decade-long pause, Russia will send two Japanese tourists, including billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, to the ISS in December, which has been a milestone for amateur space travel.
Last month, SpaceX completed the first all-civilian mission in space that took four untrained astronauts on a three-day loop around Earth’s orbit.
The trip came several minutes after billionaire Richard Branson was in weightlessness in July, with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos completing a similar mission a few days later.
Later this month, 90-year-old actor William Shatner, best known for playing Captain Kirk in the Star Trek series, will fly to space on a mission with Bezos’ Blue Origin.
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)