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Russian Actress and Director to Start Making First Movie on Space Station


The first dog in space. The first man and woman. Now Russia has clinched another spaceflight first before the United States: Beating Hollywood to orbit.

A Russian actress, Yulia Peresild, a director, Klim Shipenko, and their veteran Russian astronaut guide, Anton Shkaplerov, launched on a Russian rocket toward the International Space Station on Tuesday. Their mission is to shoot scenes for the first feature-length film in space. While cinematic sequences in space have long been portrayed on big screens using sound stages and advanced computer graphics, never before has a full-length movie been shot and directed in space.

Whether the film they shoot in orbit is remembered as a cinematic triumph, the mission highlights the busy efforts of governments as well as private entrepreneurs to expand access to space. Earth’s orbit and beyond were once visited only by astronauts handpicked by government space agencies. But a growing number of visitors in the near future will be more like Ms. Peresild and Mr. Shipenko, and less like the highly trained Mr. Shkaplerov and his fellow space explorers.

A Soyuz rocket, the workhorse of Russia’s space program, lifted off on time at 4:55 a.m. Eastern time from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Before the launch on Tuesday, the MS-19 crew posed for photos and waved to family and fans in Baikonur. Mr. Shipenko, the director of the film which is named “The Challenge,” held up a script as he waved to cameras.

“We didn’t forget to take it with us,” he said, according to a translator, before he boarded a bus with the other crew members to get dressed in their flight suits.

The crew then raced to catch up with the space station in a trip that took only three hours. Known as a “two-orbit scheme,” it was unusually fast, as journeys to the lab in space typically last between eight and 22 hours over multiple orbits around Earth. (The first three-hour trip was performed by a Soyuz spacecraft in 2020 for Russia’s MS-17 mission, carrying two Russian astronauts and a U.S. astronaut.)

The MS-19 spacecraft carrying its three-person crew was expected to dock with the space station at 8:12 a.m. But because of what a mission control official in Moscow described as “ratty comms” between the capsule and mission control in Moscow, possibly the result of weather conditions on Earth, Mr. Shkaplerov, the mission’s commander, was forced to abort an initial automated docking attempt. Mr. Shkaplerov instead manually steered the spacecraft to a port on the station’s Russian segment.

“Up, down, left, right,” the mission control official in Moscow instructed Mr. Shkaplerov, as he steered the spacecraft closer to the station’s Russian segment. “Do what you’ve trained for. You’ll be fine.”

The capsule latched onto the space station around 8:22 a.m. slightly behind schedule. Opening the hatch door was also delayed as the crew checked for air leaks, and as the Russian astronauts already on the station lined up their first shot: Ms. Peresild’s arrival.

“They’re going to open the hatch from their side, and then they’re going to float towards the camera, correct? So we need to stay out of the picture,” Oleg Novitsky, one of two Russian astronauts who’ve been on the station since April, asked mission control in Moscow.

Pyotr Dubrov, the other resident of the Russian segment, was behind a large digital cinema camera, recording and waiting for the MS-19 crew to open the hatch door and board the station. When it finally opened more than two hours after docking, at 11 a.m., out floated Mr. Shkaplerov and a smiling Ms. Peresild, followed by Mr. Shipenko, her director. The three then participated in a welcoming ceremony with the space station’s current crew of seven astronauts from NASA,…



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