Russia to open new frontier in space, shoot first feature film

MOSCOW – The first satellite in space, the first dog, the first man, the first woman and now – if all goes according to plan – the first film.

Russia moved closer to claiming another space record on Thursday when a commission of medical and safety experts approved a plan for an actress and director to take off early next month to shoot the first fictional feature film in space.

The film, titled “The Challenge”, tells the story of a female doctor who was launched on short notice to the International Space Station to save the life of a cosmonaut. If it was filmed on time next month, it would beat Hollywood in low earth orbit.

Nasa announcement last year, Tom Cruise plans to film on the station. The Russian space agency Roscosmos then announced its cinematographic ambition.

At a press conference in Moscow before leaving for the launch, the Russian actress, director and their doubles – both roles have backups, lest a last-minute health issue derail the project – spoke enthusiastically about a new frontier in show business. They said they hoped to portray weightlessness like never before in fiction and, thanks to the skills of a professional actress, the emotions of floating freely and seeing the Earth from the heavens.

“The first two seconds is scary,” said Yulia Peresild, who is on her way to becoming the first actress in space, of her training on an airplane flight that briefly created a microgravity environment. “Afterwards, it’s beautiful.

Ms Peresild and Main Crew Director Klim Shipenko plan to get on and back in a Soyuz capsule and spend 10 days filming in the Russian segment of the space station. It’s unclear when NASA plans to launch its space film project, but Russian officials were concerned enough to change the mission schedule to accommodate the pair’s rushed launch.

Takeoff is scheduled for October 5. The approval Thursday by a commission of the Yuri Gagarin Center for the training of cosmonauts removed a major obstacle for the film. Much like the character she will play, Ms Peresild, who is 37, has been shaken up by a training that began this spring after an audition. She has no experience in space or aviation.

The daughter of a painter and a kindergarten teacher, Ms. Peresild had already achieved fame in Russia. She starred in blockbusters, art films and television series and for years performed at the Malaya Bronnaya Theater in Moscow.

Russia’s plan to send an actress into space follows a flurry of flights by non-professionals this year, including those from Amazon owner Jeff Bezos on a rocket built by his company Blue Origin, and four passengers in a capsule made by Elon Musk. company SpaceX, which launched on Wednesday.

For the Russian film, Anton Shkaplerov, an experienced cosmonaut, will pilot the three-seater Soyuz spacecraft. All members of the mission trained for in-flight emergencies with Russian accident-prone space equipment, either in the capsule or in the Russian segment of the station, which lost air and which, more earlier this year, performed a back flip into orbit after thrusters on a failed new Russian module.

“I’m not afraid,” Ms Peresild said of her space flight, although she also said “fear is normal”.

Ms Peresild conceded that she would face limitations when filming in space. She’ll do makeup herself, for example, and work without a lighting or sound crew.

Mr Shipenko said his goal was to bring the experience of space to life through the eyes of an ordinary person, the doctor character played by Ms Peresild. “We want everyone to be a bit like our hero,” he said, experiencing the feeling of space travel through his performance. Three cosmonauts will play small roles.

Filming long scenes of an actress in weightlessness will be new to cinematography, said Anton Dolin, film critic and editor-in-chief of Film Art, a film critic magazine. But after a film claims the title of the first filmed in space, he said, and the novelty wears off, it’s not clear whether future projects “would justify the costs and risks. “.

Astronauts and cosmonauts have, of course, been making documentaries for decades. The Apollo lunar missions were the first to broadcast live television broadcasts.

There have been modest and past attempts at filming fiction in space, said Robert Pearlman, editor-in-chief of, a news site on the history of space. Richard Garriott, an entrepreneur who flew as a tourist in 2008, filmed a seven-minute short titled “Apogee of Fear,” with astronauts and cosmonauts playing wooden roles. A 1984 Soviet film, “Return from Orbit,” included scenes filmed in space.

But “The Challenge” would be the first fictional feature film shot in space, and “the first to send an actor and director into space for this purpose,” Pearlman said.

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

Oleg Matsnev contributed reporting

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