A Russian team aboard the International Space Station to sign the first film in orbit

Moscow, Russia | A Russian actress and director arrived aboard the International Space Station (ISS), Tuesday, to shoot the first film in orbit, ahead of a competing American project with Tom Cruise.

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Actress Yulia Peresild, director Klim Chebenko and veteran cosmonaut Anton Chkaplerov, sporting wide smiles, ascended to the orbital station six hours after leaving Earth, according to images published by the Russian space agency (Roscosmos).

“Everything was new to me today (…) I have the impression that I am dreaming,” says Youlia Peressild, her hair fluttering like a halo, during a short speech from the International Space Station broadcast by Roscosmos.

The 37-year-old actress and 38-year-old director, who is scheduled to return to Earth on October 17, will have 12 days to tentatively shoot her movie The Challenge. It will feature a surgeon whose job it is to rescue an astronaut.

But in the context of the Russian-American rivalry, this cinematic adventure also feels like a new race for exploits in space, 60 years after the Soviet Union put the first man into orbit.

Roscosmos revealed its ambition last year, after announcing a filming project aboard the International Space Station with Tom Cruise, the star of the “Mission Impossible” saga, in partnership with NASA and Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

One of the Russian film’s producers, Konstantin Ernst, the strong head of the TV channel Pervi Kanal, told AFP that he was able to speak with the team after their capsule was docked at the International Space Station, a delicate measure. “They are in a good mood and feel good,” he said.

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Mr. Shipenko began filming even before his arrival aboard the International Space Station, during a docking during which the actress assisted astronaut Anton Chkaplerov.

Goal: “victory”

The initiative comes amid the unscientific rush into space, with an increase in recreational flights in recent months, such as those by British billionaires Richard Branson and American Jeff Bezos.

A company he recently founded, Blue Origin, announced Monday that Canadian actor William Shatner, who played Captain Kirk on “Star Trek,” will go into space next week, at the age of 90.

The Russian space sector, which was a source of pride for Moscow during the Soviet era with the first satellite put into orbit, first animal, first man and then first woman, is today undermined by problems.

For Roscosmos, the film should restore its reputation tarnished by corruption scandals, serial blackouts, and the loss of the lucrative monopoly on manned flights to the International Space Station.

If photos have always accompanied missions in space, from the first steps on the moon in 1969 to posts on the social networks of French astronaut Thomas Pesquet, then a feature film was never shot in orbit.

Setting “Challenge”

The two space travelers for the first time underwent acceleration training to learn to resist violent acceleration to take off or move in zero gravity.

“It was a psychological, physical and emotional attempt,” admitted Yulia Peresild, who was chosen from among 3,000 candidates who applied to play the lead role.

Faithful to the traditions of Russian cosmonauts, the actress and director watched “The White Sun of the Desert,” a 1970 Soviet film on Sunday.

Two Russian cosmonauts are currently stationed on the International Space Station and Mr. Chkaplerov will appear in “The Challenge” as extras.

Mr. Ernst explained to AFP that a special device will be prepared to film the team’s return to Earth and sent into space, a sequence that will be incorporated into the film.

As a testament to the importance of this project for Russian President Vladimir Putin, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday that “space is an area in which we are pioneers and in which, despite everything, we maintain a very strong position.”

In addition to the film, Roscosmos will soon lead a Japanese billionaire to the International Space Station, so as not to be left behind in space tourism.

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