A Russian actress and director arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) on Tuesday in an attempt to defeat the United States and film the first movie in orbit.
The Russian crew is set to take on a Hollywood project announced last year by “Mission Impossible” star Tom Cruise along with NASA and Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
Actress Yulia Peresild, 37, and film director Klim Shipenko, 38, departed as planned from the Russian-rented Baikonur cosmodrome in the former Soviet Kazakhstan.
But they docked late at the ISS at 1222 GMT after veteran cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov switched to manual controls.
“Welcome to the ISS!” This is reported by the Russian space agency Roscosmos on Twitter.
The crew traveled in a Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft for a 12-day mission to the ISS to film scenes for “The Challenge.”
The plot of the film, which has been largely kept secret along with the budget, was revealed by Roscosmos and revolves around a female surgeon who is sent to the ISS to rescue a cosmonaut.
Shkaplerov and two other Russian cosmonauts aboard the ISS reportedly made a cameo appearance in the film.
The ISS crew, which also includes one French, one Japanese and three NASA astronauts, will welcome the newcomers when the hatch opens around 1410 GMT.
– ‘It was difficult’ –
“It was difficult psychologically, physically and emotionally… but I think if we reach our goal, all the challenges won’t seem so bad,” Peresild, who was selected from 3,000 candidates for the role, said at a pre-flight press conference. on Monday.
True to a pre-flight tradition religiously observed by cosmonauts, the crew said they watched the classic Soviet film “The White Sun of the Desert” on Sunday.
Shipenko and Peresild are expected to return to Earth on October 17 in a capsule with cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky, who has been on the ISS for the past six months.
“In space, we have become pioneers, where we maintain a fairly confident position despite everything,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Tuesday.
If successful, the mission will be added to a long list of firsts for the Russian space industry.
The Soviets launched the first satellite Sputnik and sent the first animal, a dog named Laika, the first man, Yuri Gagarin, and the first woman, Valentina Tereshkova, into orbit.
But compared to the Soviet era, modern Russia is struggling to innovate and the space industry is fighting to secure state funding, with the Kremlin prioritizing military spending.
The space agency still relies on Soviet-designed technology and has faced a number of setbacks, including corruption scandals and launch failures.
Russia is also lagging behind in the global space race, with stiff competition from the United States and China, and Beijing shows growing ambitions in the industry.
– Russians ‘lost interest’ –
Roscosmos also took a hit after SpaceX successfully delivered astronauts to the ISS last year, costing Russia its monopoly on travel to the orbital station.
For political analyst Konstantin Kalachev, the space film is a matter of PR and a way to “distract” Russians from the “problems” facing Roscosmos.
“This should inspire the Russians, show how cool we are, but I think the Russians have completely lost interest in the space industry,” Kalachev told AFP.
In an effort to brighten its image and diversify its revenue, Russia’s space program revealed this year that it is reviving its tourism program to bring paying adventurers to the ISS.
After a 10-year hiatus, Russia will send two Japanese tourists — including billionaire Yusaku Maezawa — to the ISS in December, ending a landmark year for amateur space travel.
Last month, SpaceX completed its first all-civilian mission to space that took four untrained astronauts on a three-day loop around Earth’s orbit.
The journey followed minutes of zero gravity from billionaire Richard Branson in July, with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos completing a similar mission days later.
Later this month, 90-year-old actor William Shatner, known for his portrayal of Captain Kirk on the Star Trek series, will fly to space on a mission featuring Bezos’ Blue Origin.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)