Lights, camera, blast off: Rocket launches Russian film crew to make first-ever feature in space

Russia’s latest space mission had some unusual passengers — an actress and a film director who are set to make the world’s first feature-length movie shot in space.

A Soyuz rocket carrying actress Yulia Peresild and film maker Klim Shipenko, as well as cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, lifted off just before 5 a.m. Eastern time from a launch facility in Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

The passengers will spend about 12 days at the ISS, shooting about 35 minutes of the film, which has the working title “The Challenge.” Peresild will play a doctor who has to race to save the life of a crew member in space, according to the space agency’s website for the project.

Training for the film was “psychologically, physically and morally hard,” she told a news conference on Monday, in quotes carried by the Associated Press. Meanwhile, Shipenko lost 33 pounds while preparing for the flight, Roscosmos said.

Two Russian cosmonauts who are already on the ISS — Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov — are also expected to feature in the film, with Novitskiy set to return to Earth with Peresild, Shipenko and Shkaplerov later this month.

Russia announced its cosmic moviemaking ambitions last year, shortly after NASA said it would work with Tom Cruise on a film on the ISS.

Russia and the United States have long competed to make space history, with Russia sending the first human into space in 1962, and the United States’ Apollo 11 landing humans on the moon in 1969.

Ellen Francis contributed to this report.

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