2021-09-17 00:11:56 Russia to Open New Frontier in Space, Shooting First Full-Length Movie

Russia to Open New Frontier in Space, Shooting First Full-Length Movie

MOSCOW — The first satellite in space, the first dog, the first man, the first woman, and now, if all goes well, the first film.

Russia moved one step closer to setting another space record on Thursday, when a commission of medical and safety experts approved a plan for an actress and a director to launch early next month to film the first full-length, fictional film in space.

The film, titled “The Challenge,” tells the story of a female doctor who is sent to the International Space Station on short notice to save the life of a cosmonaut. If it is completed on time next month, it will beat Hollywood to low-Earth orbit.

Tom Cruise’s plans to film on the space station were announced by NASA last year. The Russian space agency, Roscosmos, then announced its intention to produce films.

The Russian actress, the director, and their doubles — both roles have backups in case a last-minute health problem derails the project — spoke enthusiastically about a new frontier in show business at a news conference in Moscow before departing for the launch. They stated that they hoped to depict weightlessness in fiction for the first time, as well as the emotions of floating freely and seeing Earth from the heavens, using the skills of a professional actress.

Yulia Peresild, who is on track to become the first actor in space, described her training on an airplane flight that briefly created a microgravity environment as “scary for the first two seconds.” “After that, it’s stunning.”

Ms. Peresild and the primary crew’s director, Klim Shipenko, intend to fly up and back in a Soyuz capsule and spend 10 days filming in the Russian segment of the space station. It is unclear when NASA intends to begin its space film project, but Russian officials were concerned enough to shift a mission schedule to accommodate the pair’s quick launch.

The launch date has been set for October 5. The approval of a commission at the Yuri Gagarin Center for Cosmonaut Training on Thursday removed an important barrier for the film. Ms. Peresild, 37, was rushed through training that began this spring after an audition, much like the character she will play. She has no prior experience in space or aviation.

Ms. Peresild, the daughter of a painter and a kindergarten teacher, had already achieved stardom in Russia. She has appeared in blockbusters, art films, and television series, and she has been a regular at Moscow’s Malaya Bronnaya theater for many years.

The Russian plan to launch an actress into space follows a flurry of nonprofessional flights this year, including those of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos on a rocket built by his company Blue Origin, and four passengers in a capsule built by Elon Musk’s company SpaceX, which launched Wednesday.

Anton Shkaplerov, a veteran cosmonaut, will pilot the three-seat Soyuz spacecraft in the Russian film. All mission members were trained for in-flight emergencies using Russia’s accident-prone space equipment, whether in the capsule or the Russian segment of the station, which has been leaking air and did a back flip in orbit earlier this year after thrusters on a new Russian module misfired.

Ms. Peresild said of her spaceflight, “I am not afraid,” though she added, “fear is normal.”

Ms. Peresild admitted that filming in space would be difficult. She will, for example, do her own makeup and work without the assistance of lighting or sound crews.

Mr. Shipenko stated that his goal was to depict the experience of space through the eyes of an ordinary person, the doctor played by Ms. Peresild. “We want everyone to be a little like our hero,” he said, feeling the sensation of space travel through her performance. Three cosmonauts will have minor roles.

Filming extended scenes of an actress in weightlessness will be a first for cinematography, according to Anton Dolin, a film critic and chief editor of Film Art, a film criticism magazine. However, after one film claims the distinction of being the first to be shot in space, and the novelty wears off, it is unclear whether future projects would “justify the costs and risks,” he said.

Of course, astronauts and cosmonauts have been filming documentaries for decades. The Apollo moon missions were the first to use live television broadcasts.

Previous attempts at filming fiction in space were modest, according to Robert Pearlman, editor of CollectSpace.com, a space history news site. Richard Garriott, an entrepreneur who flew as a tourist in 2008, made a seven-minute film called “Apogee of Fear,” in which astronauts and cosmonauts played wooden parts. “Return from Orbit,” a Soviet film released in 1984, featured space scenes.

However, “The Challenge” would be the first feature-length fiction film shot in space, as well as the “first to fly an actor and director to space for the purpose of doing so,” according to Mr. Pearlman.

And that, he claims, will come with “some bragging rights.”

Reporting was contributed by Oleg Matsnev.

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Russia to Open New Frontier in Space, Shooting First Full-Length Movie