Russia Just Launched A Film Crew To Make The First Movie In Space

For those following along, there's about three different running storylines to keep track of in this rapidly developing space race of sorts. One has to do with Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos' battle of egos, which resulted in the news that actor William Shatner would be living up to his most well-known role and hitching a ride into space on board Bezos' Blue Origin rocket. The other has to do with Musk's SpaceX company blasting an all-civilian crew into space for the very first time in human history, ostensibly bringing us one step closer to normalizing commercial space flights for those of us who aren't worth, give or take, a couple billion dollars.

The last narrative is the most relevant, as Russia has made good on its promises and achieved a new milestone (while securing all-important bragging rights) as the first film crew to launch into orbit in order to produce a full-length film made in space. There's no word yet on how the uber-competitive Tom Cruise took this news and whether this means his own efforts to film a space-set movie will now change plans to take place on Mars or something.

The Challenge

We previously covered the reports that Russia would be assured of beating out Tom Cruise, filmmaker Doug Liman, and Musk to become the first to shoot a production crew into space and film a movie while in orbit around Earth, and now that has become a reality. According to Deadline, a Russian Soyuz rocket carrying actor Yulia Peresild, director Klim Shipenko, and Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov lifted off this morning on its way to linking up with the International Space Station, where the movie will be filmed. Titled "The Challenge," the movie has been described as following "a Russian doctor who's sent to the International Space Station to save the life of a cosmonaut." Reportedly, the plan is for the Russian crew to spend 12 days on the space station alongside the existing assortment of 7 astronauts already taking up residence within the increasingly cramped interior. Uh, would now be a bad time to reiterate that the two decade-old International Space Station has been experiencing its own set of very real, very serious problems in recent months?

Deadline reports that the crew underwent extensive training beforehand that included "centrifuge and vibration stand tests, training flights, and parachute training," although that's nothing compared to the years and years of experience that professional astronauts are required to undergo with NASA. As Shipenko acknowledged in a press conference on Monday:

"We underwent an accelerated course of many important elements that the cosmonauts study over many years. We tried to master them in four months. Of course, this is very fast. We had a lot of theory, practice, endurance, sports — everything imaginable. It seems to me, this is a rather feasible task — naturally not to become a cosmonaut at the level of Anton and other professionals, but to prepare as a participant of a space flight."

Personally, I can't but feel pretty cynical about these sorts of publicity campaigns that inevitably come at the expense of actual science being done among, you know, professionals. Individuals such as Musk, Bezos, and Richard Branson are mostly in it for the fame and fortune that comes with space exploration among the private sector, but at least Musk's efforts are (mostly) in service of providing NASA a reliable and reusable means to reach orbit and arrive back on Earth safely. Maybe the spectacle of this movie will be worth the cost? Could Tom Cruise give us the modernized update to "Moonraker" that we so clearly deserve? We'll see.