Russia said Thursday that it would send an actress and director into space to make the first feature film in the cosmos and also bring an eccentric Japanese billionaire to the International Space Station.
Moscow is trying to boost its controversial space program, which has stalled since the collapse of the Soviet Union and has been overtaken by US tech billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX company.
The Russian space agency announced the film project after NASA confirmed last year that it is teaming up with American action star Tom Cruise to make a film on the ISS.
The Russian “space drama,” whose working title is “Challenge,” will feature popular Russian actress Yulia Peresild, 36, and Klim Shipenko, a 37-year-old US-trained director and actor, Roscosmos said.
They will have to undergo training no later than June 1, including centrifuge tests, skydiving and zero-gravity flights.
A mockup of the Russian part of the ISS will be used to prepare the film crew for their space adventure.
Launch from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan aboard a Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft is scheduled for October 5.
“Wish us luck,” Peresild said in a post on Instagram.
The film will be co-produced by the flamboyant head of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, and the state-run network Channel One.
Konstantin Ernst, Channel One’s general manager, said the film was part of a major project – which will also include documentary production – to help Russians rediscover “love and passion” for the manned space flight program.
“When people like a particular industry, this energy is channeled into this process,” Ernst said in comments on the television.
The space agency also announced plans to bring Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa to the ISS in December, reviving its space tourism program in the face of US competition.
Maezawa, 45, who made his fortune in online retail, said he planned to document the mission and share it with the world on his YouTube channel with more than 700,000 subscribers.
Roscosmos said Maezawa would fly with production assistant Yozo Hirano aboard a Soyuz MS-20 spacecraft scheduled for December 8.
“I am so curious’ How is life in space?” So I plan to find out for myself and share it with the world on my YouTube channel, ”Maezawa said according to Roscosmos.
The eccentric billionaire previously announced plans to take eight people on a mission around the moon in 2023 aboard a spacecraft from Musk’s SpaceX spaceship.
Maezawa and film producer Hirano will begin approximately three months of pre-flight training at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City outside Moscow in June.
They have already passed the required medical examinations.
Roscosmos said the flight will last 12 days and the crew will be led by cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin, who has already been on two missions to the ISS.
A total of eight private, self-funded space travelers have visited the ISS and Maezawa will be the first from Japan.
His flight will also be the first time that two of the three spots on a Soyuz rocket are occupied by tourists.
“We are delighted for Maezawa-san and we are honored to have given him this opportunity to fly into space,” said Eric Anderson, CEO of Space Adventures, a privately held aerospace company.
It has partnered with Roscosmos since the first space tourist flight in 2001.
Maezawa will be the first space tourist to travel to the ISS since 2009, when Canadian Guy Laliberte, cofounder of Cirque du Soleil, traveled to the station.
According to Forbes magazine, space tourists could pay between $ 20 million and $ 35 million per person for 8-12 days in space. The cost of Maezawa’s flight has not been disclosed.
The resumption of tourist flights comes after Roscosmos lost its monopoly on transporting crews to the ISS when a reusable SpaceX rocket successfully took NASA astronauts to space last year.
The Russian space industry has faced a number of setbacks in recent years, from corruption scandals and lost spacecraft to a rejected takeoff during a manned mission in 2018.
Russia’s aging Soyuz missiles are reliable and allow Moscow to remain relevant in the modern space industry, but the country is struggling to innovate and keep up with other key players.