Russia beats Tom Cruise to shoot first film in space

After lagging behind the US in space for several decades, the successful 12-day shooting stint in the International Space Station has revived Russia’s space programme

Russia beats Tom Cruise to shoot first film in space

Shalini Sahay

The Soviet Union had been the first to put a satellite (Sputnik) in space. It was again the first to put a living creature, a stray dog named Laika in space in 1957 (Sputnik2). It also was the first to put a man, Yuri Gagarin, and the first woman, Valentina Tereshkova, in space in 1961 and 1963 respectively. And now Russia has beaten traditional rivals the United States to emerge as the first nation to shoot a film in space.

Actor Yulia Peresild (37) and director Klim Shipenko (38) arrived at the International Space Station, shot the required footage and returned to earth. In the process they beat a Hollywood project announced last year and involving NASA, Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Tom Cruise. Shipenko plans to complete the rest of the shooting on earth.

The duo had blasted off from the Russia-leased Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan earlier this month, travelling to the ISS with veteran cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov to film scenes for The Challenge. The three and a half hour journey to the space station developed technical snags which affected the automatic systems, forcing Shkaplerov to take over the manual control, an adventure they had not bargained for.

The feature film, tentatively named The Challenge, completed a 12-day shooting stint in the ISS with Peresild and other crew members stationed there. The film is said to revolve around a surgeon, played by Peresild, sent to the space station to treat a cosmonaut (astronaut in American). Peresild’s previous roles have included playing the Soviet sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko in Battle for Sevastopol (2015).

The head of NASA had revealed last year that Tom Cruise was in talks with the US space agency about working on a film shot in outer space. “We need popular media to inspire a new generation of engineers and scientists to make NASA’s ambitious plans a reality,” the then NASA administrator, Jim Bridenstine, had said. Cruise was also reported to be working with Musk, the founder of SpaceX, to make what would have been the first feature film shot in space. But a Soyuz MS-19 spaceship carrying Peresild and Shipenko at the ISS earlier this month trumped plans by Cruise. The International Space Station crew at present includes a French and a Japanese citizen and three NASA astronauts.

Last month, SpaceX completed the first all-civilian mission to space, taking four astronauts into a three-day orbit around the Earth. The trip followed the missions of Richard Branson, who spent several minutes in weightlessness in July, and the Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who completed a similar mission days later.

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