Highlights

  • Russia sends film crew to space ahead of US project with Tom Cruise
  • The Russian crew is destined for the International Space Station
  • Shooting will be for 'Challenge' - the first feature film set in space

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Russia has launched an actor and a film director into space, beating the United States to shoot the first movie in orbit.

In a historic first, Russia has launched a three-member film crew into space to make the world's first feature film in orbit, a project that the prestige of Russia's space programme is banking on.

Russian actor Yulia Peresild was selected to star in the first feature film shot up in space, while director Klim Shipenko will be shooting the movie. Veteran cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov will be leading and commanding the launch of the Soyuz MS-19 rocket.

The crew plans to film segments of a new movie entitled "Challenge", which is the story of a surgeon who was summoned to the space station to save a crew member who suffers a heart condition.

The trip to space for Yulia Peresild and Klim Shipenko got the green signal, after rounds of medical tests and zero gravity simulations on Earth to be able to remain functional amid the weightlessness. If all goes well, the Russian crew will beat a Hollywood project announced last year by 'Mission Impossible' star Tom Cruise together with NASA and Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

Filmmaker Klim Shipenko said, a major motivator for the film was opening the idea of space travel up to a wider audience. He also acknowledged that while no one can become a cosmonaut in four months, it is possible to become a crew member on board a spacecraft.

"Promoting this sector is very important," Shipenko said. "Maybe we can encourage other people to go to space."

Speaking at the Russian launch facility in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, Peresild also admitted that training for the mission had been gruelling, but he described it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

The 37-year-old actor said it was difficult for her to adapt to the strict discipline and rigorous demands required during the training. "We have the opportunity to fly to space, and not just fly there but to do what we know best on Earth- to make a film," she said in an interview last week.

The crew has taken off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. After 12 days on the space outpost, the crew will return to Earth on October 17.

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