MOSCOW – Humans have explored space around planet Earth for 60 years now, which means most dramatic “premieres” have long been claimed in the history books.
But Russia thinks it’s good for another: the first film to be shot in space. And, just like in the good old days, it’s in a race with the United States to claim the feat.
Russian space agency Roscosmos announced Thursday that it had selected its crew to cover the front page of the film, which will be called “Challenge”.
The film will star actor Yulia Peresild, 36, and be directed by Klim Shepenko, 37.
The effort was first announced last year, shortly after the actor Tom Cruise and NASA announced their own collaboration to make a movie about the International Space Station.
Peresild, who has starred in a number of Russian films, beat hundreds for the role after a casting that promised a chance at “international fame.”
The team will occupy two of the three seats aboard the October launch of the Russian Soyuz mission to the orbiting space station. Prior to this launch, however, they will undergo elements of Russia’s standard cosmonaut training.
“Among other things, they will have to pass centrifuge tests, vibration support tests, perform introductory and training flights on a zero-gravity aircraft, undergo parachute training,” Roscosmos said.
The “space drama” is a familiar project of the agency’s grand administrator, Dmitry Rogozin.
Very little is known about the plot, which in many ways seems secondary to the show.
When Russia announced the project last year, Konstantin Ernst, the director of Channel One in Russia – who is working with Roscosmos on the film – said it would not be a sci-fi film, but a realistic representation of short-term space travel.
“It’s a movie about how a person is in no way related to space exploration, for various reasons and for personal debt, ends up in orbit a month later,” Ernst said in an interview September 2020. “That’s all I can tell you.
The casting call went out in November, looking for an actress, aged 25 to 40, weighing between 50 and 70 kilograms (around 110 to 155 pounds), who could pass various fitness tests.
The decision to equip the October Soyuz flight with a film crew comes at an uncertain time for the Russian space program.
Relations with NASA, its partner for the past 20 years, are unraveling as tensions in the broader US-Russia bilateral relationship weigh on space cooperation. And Rogozin, along with other officials, is hinting that Russia may soon part ways with US-led efforts in international space exploration and join China.
Rogozin threatened in 2014 to respond to US sanctions by refusing NASA to travel to the space station on Russian rockets, at the time the only way to send Americans to the 100 billion orbital outpost. of dollars.
Recently, he threatened to withdraw from the space station altogether.
In October, NASA paid for its last flight aboard Soyuz. NASA has been dependent on Russia since the withdrawal from the US space shuttle fleet in 2011, and last year finally saw new US space vehicles come online. Another American flew at an April launch, but no money directly changed hands.
Russia must now look for other ways to help subsidize launch costs.
One of those obvious sources – beyond funding for the national television network Channel One – is space tourism.
Another Soyuz will launch in December, and rather than filling those seats with Russian cosmonauts, Moscow announced Thursday that two Japanese space tourists will take over.
Roscosmos is no stranger to launching space tourists – until now they were all wealthy businessmen or celebrities – to subsidize manned spaceflight efforts, but the agency has not since done so. over a decade.
The last space tourist to fly on Soyuz was launched in 2009, just before NASA withdrew its space shuttles and became fully dependent on the Russian Soyuz.
One of the two tourists on the December flight will be Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa.
The businessman made headlines in 2018 when he announced he had paid for a flight around the moon on SpaceX’s still unfinished spacecraft, a massive reusable vehicle designed to colonize Mars.
Maezawa has called on eight candidates from around the world to join him on the flight, which is slated for 2023.