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Russian Actress Beats Tom Cruise In Race To Film First Movie In Space

Clare Fitzgerald
Photo Credit: 1. Anadolu Agency / Getty Images 2. Jamie McCarthy / Getty Images

A Russian actress and a director are making history as the first to film a movie at the International Space Station. Yulia Peresild and Klim Shipenko were launched into space on October 5, 2021, temporarily joining astronauts working on the ISS.

Yulia Peresild stepping out of a space capsule

Yulia Peresild, October 5, 2021. (Photo Credit: Anadolu Agency / Getty Images)

The pair will be using the ISS to film Challenge, a film being produced by Roscosmos, Russia’s Channel One, and film studio Yellow, Black, and White. It will tell the story of a doctor – played by Peresild – who travels to the ISS to help a cosmonaut suffering from a heart condition, despite having had no prior involvement with the space program.

It’s being co-produced by Roscosmos Head Dmitry Rogozin, with the involvement of Russian cosmonauts already on the space station. Channel One is also working on a documentary, showing the crew’s training and launch preparations.

While aboard the ISS, Peresild and Shipenko will do their own camera work, lighting, acting, and makeup, tasks normally spread across a team of behind-the-scenes workers.

Soyuz MS-19 Spacecraft blasting off

Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft, October 5, 2021. (Photo Credit: Sergei Savostyanov / Getty Images)

Those set to travel to the ISS were cleared as medically fit to fly last week after undergoing four months of fast-tracked training, which included centrifuge and zero-gravity flight training. A backup crew including director Alexey Dudin, cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev, and actress Alena Mordovina were on stand-by.

Speaking at a press conference before the launch, Peresild said the training “was psychologically, physically and morally hard, but I think that once we achieve the goal, all that will seem not so difficult and we will remember it with a smile.”

Prior to the launch, space officials reported that all spacecraft systems were functioning normally and that the crew was in good health. They took off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazahkstan on a Soyuz MS-19 crew capsule with cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, who’s previously completed three space missions. The trip took approximately three hours and 17 minutes, and they approached the ISS in a double-loop pattern.

Yulia Peresild, Klim Shipenko and Anton Shkaplerov extending their hands forward

Peresild, Klim Shipenko and Anton Shkaplerov, October 5, 2021. (Photo Credit: Anadolu Agency / Getty Images)

Upon arrival at the ISS, Peresild, Shipenko, and Shkaplerov were met by Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency; Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov of Roscomos; Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency; and NASA astronauts Megan McArthur, Shane Kimbrough, and Mark T. Vande Hei.

The Russian part of the ISS is considerably smaller than that belonging to the US, meaning it will be difficult to film. The segment was expanded in July after the arrival of the new lab module, the Nauka. However, it has yet to be fully integrated into the station.

The crew will spend 12 days in space, before returning to earth in a Soyuz capsule on October 17. Novitskiy will take the captain’s seat for the journey back. Shkapelrov will stay behind until spring 2022.

Yulia Peresild, Klim Shipenko and Anton Shkaplerov sitting in spacesuits

Peresild, Shipenko and Shkaplerov, October 5, 2021. (Photo Credit: Anadolu Agency / Getty Images)

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Tom Cruise and director Doug Liman were scheduled to fly to the ISS this month on a SpaceX Crew Dragon, similar to the spaceship that launched the first all-civilian crew into Earth’s orbit for three days. However, the trip got delayed until 2022. The yet-to-be-named, $200 million film was confirmed by NASA and Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which shared that Cruise and Liman would film all space-based scenes on the space station.