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Russia Just Beat Hollywood to the International Space Station

An actress, a producer, and a cosmonaut successfully launched to the ISS on October 5.

Russia Just Beat Hollywood to the International Space Station
The Soyuz MS-19 rocket. 12

A crew including an actress, a movie producer, and an astronaut launched towards the International Space Station (ISS) at 4:55 am EDT on Oct. 5 from Russia's Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazhakstan, a post from NASA explains. The crew successfully docked with the ISS on the same day at 8:22 am EDT in yet another example of space becoming more accessible to civilians.

Notably, the launch is the first to take a movie crew to space, beating Tom Cruise, who also plans to launch aboard a SpaceX rocket to shoot an as-yet-unnamed movie.

Russian film crew safely reaches orbit

Approximately nine minutes after launch, the Soyuz MS-19 rocket carrying the crew reached orbit, setting them on a two-orbit, three-hour flight to the ISS. The crew is made up of Roscosmos cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, actress Yulia Peresild, and producer Klim Shipenko.

According to NASA, at the time of the launch, the ISS was flying roughly 260 miles (418 km) over southwest Kazakhstan. The Soyuz spacecraft is expected to dock at the ISS's Rassvet module at 8:12 am EDT. Approximately two hours later, the hatch between the spacecraft and the Rassvet module will open, allowing the film crew to join the Expedition 65 crew aboard the ISS, including astronauts from NASA and SpaceX's Crew-2 launch back in April. Live coverage can be viewed in the NASA TV feed below.

Update Oct. 5, 8:22 AM EDT: Russian film crew docks with the ISS

The film crew and cosmonaut successfully docked with the ISS's Rassvet module after cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov performed a manual docking maneuver. The docking occurred a little later than expected due to a failure in the Soyuz's automatic Kurs docking system, meaning Shkaplerov had to switch to manual control.

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Standard pressurization and leak checks have now commenced and the hatch opening will start at approximately 9:30 am EDT. Coverage of the hatch opening can be viewed on NASA TV below starting at 9:30 am EDT.

Update Oct. 5, 11:00 AM EDT: The hatch is open and the Russian film crew has entered the ISS

Anton Shkaplerov, Yulia Peresild, and Klim Shipenko have now entered the International Space Station. Peresild and Shipenko are the first-ever film crew to capture footage in space and they now have 12 days in which to film footage aboard the ISS for their upcoming movie, "Challenge".

Mission: Possible

The Russian film crew's movie, called "Challenge", is being produced as part of a collaboration between Russian space agency Roscosmos and Russian movie studios. Peresild and Shipenko filmed scenes during the Soyuz spacecraft's docking approach using handheld cameras.

Russia Just Beat Hollywood to the International Space Station
The crew (from left to right): Yulia Peresild, Anton Shkaplerov, and Klim Shipenko. Source: NASA

The films crew will now spend 12 days capturing footage on the station before returning to Earth with cosmonaut Oleg Novistkiy who is currently aboard the ISS as part of Expedition 65. Cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, who launched to the ISS with the actress and producer, will remain aboard the ISS and form a part of the Expedition 66 crew.

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We first reported on Russia’s desire to film scenes for a movie in November 2020, shortly after it was first officially announced that Tom Cruise would launch to the ISS to shoot a movie. Little is known about the Tom Cruise project so far, aside from the fact that it will not be a Mission: Impossible movie and that the famous actor will launch aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule attached to a Falcon 9 rocket.

Space is slowly but surely becoming more accessible

For all the hype about space becoming accessible following the launches of Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos into space aboard their own companies' flying machines in July, the truth is that spaceflight at around $450,000 a ticket means we are far from seeing grandiose claims that space is for all come true.

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Branson’s Virgin Galactic mission and Bezos' Blue Origin launch each cost between $250 and $450 million. Both of these spent less than half an hour in space and didn't reach orbit. More recently, however, SpaceX's Inspiration4 mission was the first orbital launch to send an all-civilian crew into space. The crew orbited Earth for several days and the mission cost a relatively low $200 million. 

While film crews going to space, including one involving Tom Cruise, doesn't signal the impending democratization of space travel, it does show that progress is very slowly, but surely, being made.

This was a developing story and was updated as new information emerged.

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