The first dog in space. The first man and woman. Now Russia is about to clinch another spaceflight first before the United States: Beating Hollywood to orbit.
A Russian actress, a director and their professional Russian astronaut guide are set to launch on a Russian rocket to the International Space Station Tuesday morning. Their mission is to shoot scenes for the first feature-length film in space. While cinematic sequences in space have long been portrayed on big screens using sound stages and advanced computer graphics, never before has a full-length movie been shot and directed in space.
When is the launch and how can I watch it?
A Soyuz rocket, the workhorse of Russia’s space program, is scheduled for liftoff at 4:55 a.m. Eastern time from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The MS-19 spacecraft carrying the three-person crew is expected to dock with the space station about three hours later, at 8:12 a.m.
NASA, which manages the space station in partnership with Russia, will begin streaming the launch at 4:15 a.m. Eastern time. Another livestream for the spacecraft’s docking will start at 7:30 a.m.
Who is on the flight?
Yulia Peresild, a Russian actress, and Klim Shipenko, a director, will join Anton Shkaplerov, a veteran astronaut who has completed three treks to and from the space station since 2011. Ms. Peresild has spent months training for the mission. She auditioned for the role earlier this year in a competition with dozens of other actresses. Alyona Mordovina, the competition’s runner-up, is Ms. Peresild’s backup, and would go to orbit if something prevented the primary crew from launching to space.
What movie are they making on the space station?
The movie’s working title is “The Challenge,” and it’s about a surgeon, played by Ms. Peresild, who embarks on an emergency mission to the space station to save an ailing cosmonaut’s life. Few other details about the plot or the filming aboard the station have been announced.
Why are they making a movie in orbit?
For “The Challenge,” cinematic storytelling may take a back seat to the symbolism of shooting a movie in space. The production is a joint project involving Russia’s space agency Roscosmos; Channel One Russia, a state-backed TV channel; and Yellow, Black and White, a Russian film studio.
Like a lot of private missions to space these days, Channel One and Roscosmos hope the film can prove to the public that space isn’t reserved for only government astronauts. One of the production’s core objectives is to show that “spaceflights are gradually becoming available not only for professionals, but also for an ever wider range of interested persons,” Channel One said on its website.
Funding for Russia’s space program is beginning to wane. Starting in 2011, when the U.S. space shuttle program ended, NASA could only send astronauts to the International Space Station by paying for expensive rides on one of Russia’s Soyuz rockets. But that ended in 2020 when SpaceX’s Crew Dragon proved itself capable of sending astronauts from American soil. And recently, the United States ended purchases of a Russian rocket engine long used for NASA and Pentagon launches to space, which generated billions in revenue for Moscow.