Explained: How Russia beat the United States for the second time in space

Sixty years after the Soviet Union defeated its rival superpower, the United States, to become the first state to send a human into space, its successor, Russia, defeated the United States in a different kind of space race: the shooting of the first feature film in orbit.

This Tuesday, actor Yulia Peresild and director Klim Shipenko traveled to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard a Soyuz MS-19 plane to film approximately 35 to 40 minutes of footage from the film titled Vyzov, or The Challenge. With them was veteran cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov.

Barring a small problem with the automatic docking system, the flight was a complete success. Peresild and Shipenko will spend a total of 12 days in the ISS.

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Reports from last year had claimed that Hollywood star Tom Cruise, known for his death-defying stunts in the Mission: Impossible films, had been approached about making a space movie. Doug Liman, who directed Cruise in Edge of Tomorrow and American Made, was going to direct the film, with Elon Musk’s NASA and SpaceX also involved in production. Later that year, then NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine confirmed the news to the U.S. Associated Press, saying SpaceX would deliver Cruise and the crew to the ISS.

What is the Russian film about?

Vyzov is about a cosmonaut who loses consciousness after being struck by space debris in the middle of a space flight. His condition does not allow him to return to earth, a surgeon flies to the International Space Station to operate in zero gravity. Shipenko also co-wrote the screenplay with Bakur Bakuradze.

Russian space agency Roscosmos, state television Channel One and studio Yellow, Black and White are behind the project.

What is the reason for making the film in space?

The realism argument can be put forward to explain why a significant part of the film is shot in space. But nowadays visual effects artists, armed with nothing more than blue or green screens and computers, can make a soundstage look like Mars, Middle-earth, or whatever. we wish. Photorealism in the film medium has been achieved to the point that it is almost impossible to tell the difference between reality and visual effect.

In this photo released by the Roscosmos Space Agency, the Soyuz-2.1a rocket booster with the Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft carrying actress Yulia Peresild, director Klim Shipenko and cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov to the International Space Station, ISS , takes off from the rented Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Tuesday, October 5, 2021. (AP)

For example, in Gravity, Alfonso Cuarón’s acclaimed sci-fi thriller from 2013, every shot featuring space or celestial objects was constructed using computer-generated imagery (CGI). In fact, visual effects supervisor Tim Webber said the film was 80% CGI. The film has always been praised for its realism and won seven Oscars, including one for cinematography.

Roscosmos director Dmitry Rogozin explained the real reason for the project: national pride. A major figure in the film, he said his goal was to glorify the country’s spatial capabilities. The Associated Press quoted him: “We were pioneers in space and have maintained a confident stance. Such missions which help to publicize our achievements and space exploration in general are excellent for the country. “

He added, “I expect the project will help bring attention to our space program, to the cosmonaut profession. We need better visualization of space research. The space deserves to be shown in a more professional and artistic way.

What were the challenges encountered by the actors and the team?

Traveling in space requires good physical and mental fitness. Both Peresild and Shipenko described the pre-space flight preparation training as grueling, but added that the end result was ultimately worth it. Peresild told reporters at a press conference (quoted by AP): “We have worked really hard and are really tired, even though we stay in a good mood and smile. It was psychologically, physically and morally difficult. But I think once the goal is achieved it will not seem so difficult and we will remember it with a smile.

In this photo from video footage released by the Roscosmos space agency, actress Yulia Peresild, left, director Klim Shipenko, right, and cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov are seated in the front row among other participants of the mission to the International Space Station, ISS, Tuesday, October 5, 2021. (AP)

“Of course, we couldn’t do much on the first try, and sometimes even on a third try, but that’s to be expected,” Shipenko said.

What’s up with Tom Cruise’s space movie?

AP reports that, according to SpaceX representatives, producer PJ van Sandwijk contacted Liman to ask if he wanted to shoot a movie in space. In January, Liman told the news agency: “There are just a lot of technical things that we are discovering. It’s really exciting because when you make a movie with Tom Cruise you have to put things on screen that no one has ever seen before.

There is no plot and other casting details available yet.

Currently, Cruise is busy post-production on the seventh film Mission: Impossible and Top Gun: Maverick, the sequel to his 1986 action hit. The two big-budget studio films can keep him busy with their promotion for au less than a year. So, it may be some time before he is free to film in space and the United States catches up with Russia in this particular area.

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