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Klim Shipenko’s Salyut 7 (2017)
Klim Shipenko’s Salyut 7 (2017)

Russia pulls ahead of Elon Musk in the race to shoot first movie in space

Space Race part two is heating up as US and Russian filmmakers get ready to film on the International Space Station

Last year, it was announced that NASA and Tom Cruise were working on the first narrative feature film to be shot in outer space, with the help of Elon Musk’s SpaceX programme. The project is yet to get off the ground, however, and now Russia has entered the race with plans to send an actor and director to film in space later this year.

Following a casting announcement from the Russian space agency Roscosmos in late 2020, the 36-year-old actor Yulia Peresild has been selected as the female lead for the film, with Salyut 7 filmmaker Klim Shipenko on board to direct. 

Both will undergo training including centrifuge tests and zero-gravity flights before blasting off to the International Space Station on October 5 this year, according to the Guardian. Beginning no later than June 1, the training will also be documented by the Russian broadcaster Channel One, which is also involved in the production.

The race to make the first feature film in space — AKA the Space Race part two — is set to be closely contested. Back in September 2020, it was announced that Tom Cruise will also head to the ISS with director Doug Liman in October, though a specific date hasn’t been set (and it’s unlikely to precede the Russian flight at the start of the month).

There also aren’t many details on the contents of each film yet, though the Russian production — working titled Challenge — is said to be a “space drama” aiming to “popularise Russia’s space activities, as well as glorify the cosmonaut profession”. The film will be co-produced by Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Roscosmos.

Released in 2017, Shipenko’s Salyut 7 told a story based on 1985’s pioneering Soyuz T-13 mission, which saw cosmonauts Vladimir Fyodorov and Viktor Alyokhin dock with a “dead” space station and reestablish its operational status.

Recently, Elon Musk announced plans to launch the “first meme in space” via a SpaceX moon mission — Doge-1 — that will be funded by the cryptocurrency Dogecoin.