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Russian actress, director enter space station to film movie

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Russian actress, director enter space station to film movie
Russian actress Yulia Peresild enters the International Space Station on Tuesday as part of a mission to film a movie in space. Photo courtesy of NASA

Oct. 5 (UPI) -- A Russian actor, director and cosmonaut entered the International Space Station Tuesday, where they will stay nearly two weeks to film the first full-length movie shot in space.

The newcomers came aboard the space station just after 11 a.m. EDT. Cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, who piloted the Soyuz spacecraft, entered first, followed by actress Yulia Peresild and director Klim Shipenko.

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The entry occurred 260 miles over the Atlantic Ocean.

"I'm still, I still feel that it's all a dream," Shipenko said after entering the space station, according to a translator. "Yes, it is almost impossible to believe that this actually all came to reality. I also feel like I'm still dreaming."

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Russia's Roscosmos space agency launched the crew on a Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on schedule at 4:55 a.m. EDT Tuesday. It docked at the space station at 8:22 a.m.

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The Russian crew will film for 10 days of their 12-day space sojourn.

As they approached the space station, data indicated the automated docking system may have failed, so Russian controllers ordered Shkaplerov to perform the docking manually.

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"Do it just as you trained for. You will be fine," a controller told Shkaplerov. Shipenko and Peresild filmed some of the approach with hand-held cameras.

The film, with the working title The Challenge, will be the first feature shot on location in space, telling the story of a doctor, played by Peresild, who is dispatched to the space station to save the life of a dying cosmonaut, according to Russia's TASS news agency.

Most of the filming will occur in the Russian portion of the space station, but a small part will be filmed on the U.S. side, including the cupola, which provides a 360-degree panoramic view of the external surfaces.

Peresild revealed a concern about being in space during the live broadcast prior to the opening of the hatch to the space station.

"Are you trying to offer me juice?" Peresild said, according to a translator. "Because I don't think I should be drinking anything right now. I'm so worried that if I open the juice, it's going to escape."

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The Russian filmmakers will be escorted into the U.S. section by American astronauts, NASA said.

Roscosmos announced the mission after former NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted in May last year that they were "excited" to work with American action star Tom Cruise on an unnamed movie to be shot aboard the space station.

After the Russian film project was announced, Peresild was hurried through training that began in the spring following auditions, and the mission was given the green light to proceed by medical and safety experts in mid-September, The New York Times reported.

On its website, the Russian space agency said the mission is not only the first film to be shot in orbit, but also a joint scientific and educational project between Russian state TV Channel One, Roscosmos State Corp. and Yellow, Black, White studio.

"The project will be a clear evidence that space flights are gradually becoming available not only to professionals, but also to an increasing number of people," Roscosmos said, explaining that the accelerated training Peresild and Shipenko underwent for the mission will be used in the future to send other specialists, such as doctors and scientists, into space.

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Between 35 and 40 minutes shot in space will be used in the final cut of the film, Roscosmos said, adding that cosmonauts Oleg Novitsky and Peter Dubrov, who arrived at the space station in April, also will play roles.

Peresild and Shipenko are scheduled to return to Earth on Oct. 16 aboard a Soyuz spacecraft currently docked to the space station, NASA said in a press release.

The launch occurred amid a push to commercialize space travel with Elon Musk's SpaceX, Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin and Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic competing in the private space tourism sector.

NASA said the Russian movie mission, while led by the Russian state's space agency, will clear the way for "expansion of commercial space opportunities to include feature filmmaking."

20 years aboard the International Space Station

The International Space Station is photographed by Expedition 56 crew members from a Soyuz spacecraft after undocking on October 4, 2018. NASA astronauts Andrew Feustel and Ricky Arnold and Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev executed a fly-around of the orbiting laboratory to take pictures of the space station before returning home after spending 197 days in space. Photo courtesy of NASA/Roscosmos

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