Beating a rival Hollywood project was celebrated in Moscow with the premiere of the first feature film shot in space in Russian cinemas. “The Challenge”, the film is about a surgeon dispatched to the International Space Station (ISS) to save an injured cosmonaut. Russia sent an actor & a film director for a 12-day stint on the ISS to film scenes on board the orbiting laboratory in October 2021.
A Hollywood project announced in 2020 by Tom Cruise in collaboration with NASA & Elon Musk’s SpaceX was beaten by the Russian crew. Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, has praised the film, saying, “We are the first to have shot a feature film in orbit, aboard a spacecraft. Once again, the first.” Space travel was pioneered by the Soviet Union, & the film crew’s mission added to a long list of firsts for Russia’s space industry.
Yulia Pereslid, one of Russia’s most glamorous actresses, plays the surgeon in the film. Klim Shipenko, director of the film, was in charge of camera, lighting, & sound. 30 hours of footage were brought back by Shipenko, 50 minutes of which were used in the final act.
Before going to space on a Soyuz spacecraft accompanied by a cosmonaut, Pereslid & Shipenko underwent training for 4 months. The Russian module of the ISS was the venue for shooting the sequences, featuring cameo appearances by three Russian cosmonauts stationed there at the time. Her blond hair floating in zero gravity, the camera followed Pereslid moving through the cramped space.
The Soyuz capsule that brought Pereslid & Shipenko back to Earth was put on display in central Moscow, before the film’s release. Challenge, the film, was a joint project between Roscosmos & the top Russian TV network Channel One.
Konstantin Ernst, the boss of Channel One, did not hide his joy in beating Hollywood. According to Ernst, the film cost less than a billion rubles ($10 million). A worker in a factory in the city of Ufa, Tatiana Kulikova, said she looked forward to watching the movie. A marketing specialist from Moscow, Polina Andreyeva, said she was proud of the actors who were not afraid of venturing into space.
One of the few areas where cooperation between Russia & the US, & its allies has not been wrecked by tensions over Moscow’s assault on Ukraine, is space exploration. Despite recent setbacks, Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, is still a significant player in the space race, according to experts. Russia’s continued commitment to space exploration & innovation in the field is demonstrated by “The Challenge”.
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