There have been countless movies about life in space, but none of them were actually filmed in space — well, until now. Russia just sent its veteran astronaut Anton Shkaplerov, actor Yulia Peresild, and movie producer Klim Shipenko to the International Space Station to make an original feature film. It’s tentatively titled Challenge and it will be the world’s first-ever movie filmed in orbit.
After lifting off in the Soyuz MS-19 from Baikonur, Kazakhstan earlier this morning, all three people arrived at the International Space Station safely a little over three hours later, reports The New York Times. The trio confirmed they were feeling okay and the spacecraft systems were functioning normally, despite a brief glitch in the automatic docking system that Shkaplerov, who has been on three space missions prior to now, resolved manually.
Now that they’ve arrived safely, Peresild and Klimenko are going to start filming segments for Challenge. The plot revolves around a surgeon, played by Peresild, who hurries to the space station to save a crew member who was struck by debris and is in need of an urgent operation mid-orbit. After 12 days on the space outpost, they will return to Earth with another Russian cosmonaut.
Klim Shipenko has directed several feature films and local blockbusters in Russia, including the 2017 movie Salyut-7 about a difficult 1985 mission in space. He had to fast-track plans for Challenge, in part due to the tough, four-month-long preparations for the spacecraft flight itself. “Of course, we couldn’t make many things at the first try, and sometimes even at a third attempt, but it’s normal,” he said. “We have been waiting for that for such a long time, and indeed now we feel like in a dream.”
Shkaplerov and two other Russian cosmonauts currently onboard the station, Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov, will also star in Challenge. After shooting the necessary footage in space, Shipenko will complete the movie on Earth where he will film any additional scenes needed and edit the final product. Russia’s state-controlled Channel One television is involved in making the movie, too.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Challenge mission will hopefully showcase Russia’s space skills as well as their admiration for the arts. “We have been pioneers in space and maintained a confident position,” said Peskov before the launch. “Such missions that help advertise our achievements and space exploration in general are great for the country.”
The only downside to all of this is that Tom Cruise is technically in second place when it comes to the modern-day space race. Last year, he revealed he was working with NASA and Elon Musk’s SpaceX program to star in a $200 million dollar film that will be partially shot on the International Space Station. He was set to become the first actor to ever film a Hollywood narrative feature in outer space, but those plans were pushed back to 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and multiple delays on Mission: Impossible 7. And thus, with that gap, Russia was able to take the lead in the unofficial space race: movie theater edition. Sorry, America.