In brief: Continuing the decades-long rivalry between the US and Russia, the two superpowers are once again engaged in a space race. This time, though, it's a competition to see who can make the first movie in low earth orbit.
Russian actress Yulia Peresild (top) and filmmaker Klim Shipenko will be on a rocket with cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov when it takes off from Baikonur cosmodrome on October 5. Their destination is the International Space Station (ISS), where they will shoot scenes for a space drama with the working title "Challenge." The RIA news agency reports that the plot involves a female surgeon's mission to perform an operation on a cosmonaut too ill to return to Earth immediately.
We heard last year that Tom Cruise and director Doug Liman were also heading for the ISS to make a movie. The Americans are heading to the space station in the same month as Peresild, Shipenko, and Shkaplerov---the exact date hasn't been revealed---but it looks as if Russia is aiming to get there first.
Russia is reported to have begun its own space movie project after Cruise confirmed he would be going to the ISS. Russian space agency Roscosmos put out an ad in November "for the lead role in the first feature film to be filmed in space."
As reported by The Guardian, the female lead was required to meet several specifications: a Russian citizen between 25 and 40 years old, weigh between 50kg (110 pounds) and 70kg (154 pounds), and have a "chest girth" of up to 112cm (47 inches). "Additionally, she must be able to run 1km in three and a half minutes or less, swim 800 meters freestyle in 20 minutes, and dive from a 3-meter springboard with an impressive technique." Previous acting experience was not required.
Peresild, 36, and Shipenko, 37, were chosen out of thousands of applicants based on "results of medical and creative selection." Their training begins in June and will be televised on Russia's Channel One network, a producer on the film.
"They will have to go through, among other things, tests on a centrifuge, a vibration stand, to make introductory and training flights on an airplane in zero gravity, to undergo parachute training," said Roscosmos.
Throughout all the tension over the years, the ISS has remained an area where the US and Russia have worked together, but it appears that is coming to an end. Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov said Moscow would give its partners notice that Russia would leave the ISS project from 2025 to focus on building its own space station.