MOSCOW, October 5 (Reuters) – A Russian actress and director flew to the International Space Station on Tuesday, beating Tom Cruise in the race to shoot the first film in space.
The Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft is expected to dock at 12:12 GMT at the station, which orbits Earth at an altitude of about 220 miles (354 km).
Russian state media provided comprehensive and patriotic coverage ahead, with a Channel One countdown and news anchors describing the development as a significant Russian breakthrough that the rest of the world is watching closely.
The launch of the film “The Challenge” puts Russia on track to beat the United States in the final chapter of the space race. Actress Yulia Peresild and director Klim Shipenko will reach the cosmos before Cruise, whose plans to take off on a SpaceX rocket for a still-untitled Hollywood film were announced by NASA last year.
In recent years, Russia’s own space industry has been plagued by delays, accidents and corruption scandals, while private US-based companies backed by wealthy businessmen such as Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos have developed new spaceships.
Peresild and Shipenko were accompanied at the launch of their 12-day mission by two Russian cosmonauts.
Russian competition with the United States in space was a hallmark of the Cold War. Moscow launched the first satellite and sent the first man and woman into space, but NASA beat it until the moon landing. More recently, they cooperated aboard the ISS, where cosmonauts and astronauts have lived together for decades.
“Space is where we pioneered and we still maintain a confident lead regardless,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said after the launch.
“Yes, others are walking on (our) toes but it is obvious that there is competition in a good way. For our country, a flight like this, which popularizes our achievements and the theme of space in general is good news. “
In the film, Peresild plays a doctor who is asked to go to the space station to save the life of a cosmonaut. Cosmonaut crew members should also appear.
Director Klim Shipenko, whose height of 1.9 meters (6 feet 2 inches) makes flying in a small capsule particularly difficult, has previously said he’s been eagerly awaiting a Mars-based sequel.
The rocket was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome that Russia leases on the steppes of Kazakhstan.
Report by Olzhas Asezov; Editing by Andrew Osborn and Peter Graff
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