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Soyuz delivers cosmonaut and film crew to ISS

Soyuz MS-19 crew
Actress Yulia Peresild (left) and director Klim Shipenko (right) joined Roscosmos cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov on the Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft that flew to the ISS Oct. 5. Credit: Roscosmos

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — A Soyuz spacecraft arrived at the International Space Station Oct. 5 carrying a cosmonaut as well as an actress and director who will film scenes for a Russian movie.

A Soyuz-2 rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 4:55 a.m. Eastern and placed the Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft into orbit. The Soyuz docked with the Rassvet module of the ISS at 8:22 a.m. Eastern after a two-orbit approach. The spacecraft’s commander, Anton Shkaplerov, had to perform a manual docking after a problem with the automated Kurs docking system.

Shkaplerov is a veteran Roscosmos cosmonaut who has spent 533 days in space on three long-duration ISS expeditions. The other two people on the spacecraft were spaceflight participants: Yulia Peresild and Klim Shipenko. They will film scenes for a Russian movie called Vyzov or Challenge, directed by Shipenko and starring Peresild.

In the movie, Peresild plays a doctor sent to the space station to perform heart surgery on a cosmonaut so he can return home. She was selected as part of an open casting call that resulted in about 3,000 applications. Shipenko is the movie’s director and will serve as camera operator and other roles while on the station.

Peresild and Shipenko will spend 12 days in space, filming scenes primarily in the Russian segment of the station. Some scenes will be shot in the cupola in the U.S. segment of the station. For those scenes, they will be escorted by NASA astronauts under terms of an agreement governing spaceflight participants on the station. About a half-hour of footage for Vyzov will be shot on the station, with the rest of the movie filmed on Earth after the mission.

The two spaceflight participants will return on the Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft that has been docked to the station since April. Oleg Novitskiy, commander of that spacecraft, will return to Earth with Peresild and Shipenko.

Shkaplerov will remain on the station with NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and Roscosmos cosmonaut Pyotr Dubrov, who flew to the station on MS-18. They will remain until March 2022, meaning that Dubrov and Vande Hei will have spent nearly one year in space, a record for an American astronaut.

Vande Hei said before his launch that the film would likely mean he would spend up to a year, rather than six months, on the ISS. “The opportunity to experience this with wonderful crewmates while contributing to science and future exploration is exciting!” he wrote in September, when NASA confirmed the extended mission.

Vyzov is often described as the first movie filmed in space, but it is more accurate to call it the first feature-length drama filmed in space. Several documentaries, including large-format Imax films, have been filmed in space. In 2008, private astronaut Richard Garriott filmed a short movie, Apogee of Fear, during a visit to the ISS. The eight-minute humorous science-fiction film featured Garriott and several astronauts and cosmonauts on the station.

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...