The Challenge
Roscosmos plans to announce in mid-May the actress who will fly to the International Space Station this fall to film scenes for the movie "The Challenge". Credit: Roscosmos

DOUGLAS, U.K. — The Russian actress who will be sent to the International Space Station on the upcoming Soyuz MS-19 spaceflight will be announced from among four finalists on May 15, according to the head of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin.

This unusual spaceflight will be connected to the filming of the movie “Vyzov” (“The Challenge”), which was announced last November, and is a partnership between Roscosmos and the Moscow-based First Channel TV station. At that time, an open audition was launched to find actresses, both professional or amateur, willing to participate.

In March, Roscosmos and First Channel had announced that they received around 3,000 auditions, and that they forwarded a shortlist of 20 actresses to the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center. There, they would be put through medical, physical and psychological tests to determine who was suitable to make the trip to the ISS.

Speaking at an April 23 press briefing at the Progress rocket factory in Samara, Russia, Rogozin revealed that the director of the movie, Klim Shipenko, had completed his medical checks and had been confirmed fit to fly to the ISS. The next step will be for Shipenko and his casting team to select the actress who will accompany him and cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov on the Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft.

That decision, Rogozin said, will be up to Shipenko. “At the end of the day, we understand that it is always the director who decides who he will work with. It is important for us now to show him which of these girls is ready to handle the challenge of the spaceflight.”

Although Rogozin declined to name the final candidates, or say how many there are, additional information confirms that the group consists of four women, aged between 27 and 36. Three are experienced professional actresses, while the fourth is an amateur actress who holds a private pilot’s license:

  • Sofya Arzhakovskaya (aka Sofya Skya)
  • Galina Kairova
  • Alena Mordovina
  • Yulia Peresild

Arzhakovskaya has appeared in several Hollywood and British movies, while Mordovina and Peresild are well-known in the Russian domestic TV and movie industry. Kairova has no known acting experience.

According to Rogozin, the actress who will join the prime crew of Soyuz MS-19, as well as her understudy/backup, will selected by Shipenko’s creative and casting team over the next two weeks.

It also seems likely that the question of the contracts, agreements and waivers that all parties will need to enter into will be quite complex. The project is unprecedented and there are numerous scenarios that could arise during training, the spaceflight and after return to Earth that will need to be considered and ironed out. There is also the question of whether one of the more prominent actresses among the finalists would be prepared to accept the backup role, considering the time involved, for potentially no exposure.

Once the actress is chosen and contracted, the whole crew for Soyuz MS-19, which will be commanded by Shkaplerov, and their backups will be formally confirmed by the State Commission on May 13. This will tie in with the official announcement that will be broadcast two days later.

Pavel Vlasov, head of the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center, has previously stated that Soyuz MS-19 will launch on Sept. 20, giving a training period of only four months. Vlasov previously said that he and his team want to use this mission to perfect a cosmonaut training process of around this duration for future space tourists. However, other sources still give a projected launch date of Oct. 5.

After a 12-day stay on the ISS, during which large parts of the movie will be filmed, Shipenko and his star will return to Earth onboard Soyuz MS-18, along with departing ISS commander Oleg Novitsky.

The commission meeting on May 13 should also confirm the long-predicted crew of Soyuz MS-20: Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin and two clients of Space Adventures, Austrian pilot Johanna Maislinger, and Japanese entertainer Yumi Matsutoya. That mission is expected to launch in December.