Russia has a history of beating us Yankees into space, and along with being the first to send a dog, man, and woman into the arms of the final frontier, they just became the first nation to send an actress and film crew up there.
Slated for two weeks of filming aboard the International Space Station (ISS), actress Yulia Peresild and director Klim Shipenko become the first humans to film part of a feature-length film in space, beating out poor old Tom Cruise, who since 2020 had made his intentions to film a movie aboard the ISS clear enough to NASA.
The Challenge will be a big-budget Russian blockbuster based on the story of a top surgeon (Peresild) who is called upon to ascend to the Russian-module of the ISS for an emergency procedure.
A Soyuz rocket departed the Earth at 4:55 a.m. on October 5th from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, and arrived three hours later carrying Ms. Peresild, Mr. Shipenko and their experienced astronautical guide, Anton Shkaplerov.
After an automated docking procedure had to be aborted due to what a translator described deliciously as “ratty comms” to the New York Times, Shkaplerov brought the Soyuz craft in manually.
“I still feel that it’s all just a dream and I am asleep,” said Peresild, opening the hatch and floating into the space laboratory. “It is almost impossible to believe that this all came to reality.”
The pair will gather around 35 minutes of footage before departing on the 17th of October, leaving Shkaplerov behind to work.
After the film launches on Russia’s Channel One, an inevitable reality series is planned to follow.
While many films certainly feature space, The Challenge will be the first feature-length fiction to be filmed on the ISS. Other filming for documentary purposes has been conducted before; just recently The Wonderful, which features a collection of the stories of astronauts aboard the ISS, was released worldwide.
In May 2020, former NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced that he and NASA “are excited to work with Tom Cruise on a film aboard the Space Station,” adding that “We need popular media to inspire a new generation of engineers to make NASA’s plans a reality.”
In September 2020, it was announced that Cruise and Director Doug Liman had booked a flight on a SpaceX rocket headed for the ISS in October 2021. Ever eager for a space-race, Russian Channel One and a film studio called Yellow, Black, and White jointly announced with the Russian space agency Roscosmos their own plans for a space movie.
While Peresild and Shipenko will be set to come down soon, Cruise’s October launch plans are still up in the air. Universal Studies were reportedly ready to lay down $200 million to make the movie happen, but having only just finished filming Mission Impossible 7, it would seem a real impossible mission to make the SpaceX flight with everything ready for filming.
If Tom Cruise needs a bright side to look on, it’s that the last time Russia and the U.S. had a first-to space race, Russia got into space first, but the U.S. got to the Moon.