October 6, 2021 11:41 am IST
A Russian actor and director flew into space on Tuesday to make the world’s first movie in orbit, a project the Kremlin says will help revive the country’s spatial image.
Actress Yulia Peresild and director Klim Shipenko took off for the International Space Station in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft with cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, a veteran of three space missions. His Soyuz MS-19 took off as scheduled at 1:55 pm (08:55 GMT) from the Russian space launch facility in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, and arrived at the station at approximately 3:30 am.
Shkaplerov took manual controls to smoothly dock the spacecraft to the space outpost after a problem with an automatic docking system.
The trio said they were feeling fine and that the spacecraft’s systems were working normally.
Peresild and Klimenko will film segments of a new movie called “Challenge,” in which a surgeon played by Peresild rushes to the space station to rescue a crew member in need of an urgent operation in orbit. After 12 days at the space outpost, they are expected to return to Earth with another Russian cosmonaut.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the mission would help showcase Russia’s space prowess.
“We have been pioneers in space and have maintained a confident posture,” Peskov said. “These missions that help publicize our achievements and space exploration in general are excellent for the country. “
At a press conference before Monday’s flight, the 37-year-old Peresild admitted that he found it difficult to adjust to the strict discipline and rigorous demands during training.
“It was psychologically, physically and morally difficult,” he said. “But I think that once the goal is achieved, not everything will seem so difficult and we will remember it with a smile. “
Shipenko, 38, who has directed several commercially successful films, also described his accelerated four-month preparation for the flight as difficult.
“Of course we couldn’t do much on the first try and sometimes even on the third try, but that’s okay,” he said.
Shipenko, who will finish filming on Earth after filming the film’s space episodes, said Shkaplerov and two other Russian cosmonauts now aboard the station, Oleg Novitskiy and Piotr Dubrovnik, will play roles in the new film.
The Russian state-controlled Channel One television channel, which is involved in the making of the film, provided extensive coverage of the crew training and launch.
“I’m in shock. I still can’t imagine my mom being there,” Peresild’s daughter Anna said in televised remarks minutes after the launch as she watched with tears in her eyes.
Dmitry Rogozin, director of the Russian state space company Roscosmos, was a key force behind the project, describing it as an opportunity to restore the nation’s space glory and rejecting criticism from some Russian media.
“I hope the project helps to draw attention to our space program, to the profession of cosmonaut,” Rogozin told reporters on Tuesday. “We need a better visualization of space research. The space deserves to be displayed in a more professional and artistic way.
After congratulating the crew on a successful docking, Rogozin said that he personally edited the film’s script to properly reflect the realities of space flight.
“We are describing some real emergencies that can arise there,” he said. According to the script, the movie’s cosmonaut character needs urgent surgery after being hit by space debris.
Some commentators have argued, however, that the film project distracts the Russian crew and could be inconvenient for filming on the Russian segment of the International Space Station, which is considerably less spacious than the American segment. A new Russian laboratory module, the Nauka, was added in July, but it is not yet fully integrated into the station.
On the space station, the three newcomers were joined by station commander Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency; NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei, Shane Kimbrough, and Megan McArthur; the cosmonauts of Roscosmos Novitskiy and Dubrovnik; 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 meeting with Mission Control in Moscow.
Shipenko echoed this sentiment: “We have been waiting for this for so long and indeed now we feel like we are in a dream. “
Novitskiy, who will play the sick cosmonaut in the film, will take the captain’s seat in a Soyuz capsule to bring the film crew back to Earth on October 17.
Before Russia took the lead in making feature films in space, NASA spoke with actor Tom Cruise about the possibility of making a film in orbit.
NASA confirmed last year that it was in talks with Cruise to film on the International Space Station with SpaceX providing the elevator. In May 2020, Cruise was reported to be developing the project alongside director Doug Liman, Elon Musk, and NASA.
Last month, representatives of SpaceX’s first private charter flight said the actor participated in a call with the four space tourists circling more than 585 kilometers (360 miles) high.
Liman told the AP that producer PJ van Sandwijk approached him for the “impossible” mission, who simply asked him if he wanted to shoot a movie in space. Details have been largely kept under wraps and no status updates have been provided recently, but in January Liman said they were making progress.
“There are a lot of technical things that we are discovering,” Liman said. “It’s really exciting because when you make a movie with Tom Cruise you have to put things on screen that no one has seen before. “
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