A Soyuz-2.1a rocket was launched from Baikonur at 11.55 a.m. on October 5. It carried a Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft with a unique crew, including professional cosmonaut Hero of Russia Anton Shkaplerov, actress Yulia Peresild and director Klim Shippenko, to the International Space Station.
The ship docked with the ISS about three hours after the lift-off. By that time, the spacecraft had circled the Earth twice. The “movie crew” was due to board the station at around 5 p.m. Moscow time. Sometime after the launch, Anton Shkaplerov reported to the Mission Control Centre that the flight was proceeding normally. The actress and the director flying with him to the ISS, felt well. They will spend about two weeks there working on the movie “Challenge.” It will be the world's first docudrama with a professional actress, filmed in space. The “movie crew” is scheduled to return to Earth on October 17.
Details of the movie have not been revealed yet. All that is known is that it will be about a young female doctor flying to the ISS to help a member of the space crew. Russian astronauts will also be involved in the shooting. Anton Shkaplerov, commander of Soyuz MS-19 and ISS-66, will play one of the roles.
The Roscosmos website announced on 4 October that a crew consisting of cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, filmmaker Klim Shippenko, and actress Yulia Peresild had been approved for a flight to the ISS. All the candidates selected for the movie crew had completed training under a special program for spaceflight participants. A competition was held earlier and a space crew was selected from 20 finalists, as well as a stand-in crew, which included spaceman Oleg Artemyev, actress Alyona Mordovina, and cinematographer Alexei Dudin.
It is Russia but not Hollywood that “will do what no one has ever done before,” writes Rossiyskaya Gazeta. Yulia Peresild said at a press conference ahead of the launch that they would start shooting the film immediately after the ship separated from the launch vehicle. Journalists were eager to know who would play the role of an astronaut in distress. As it turned out, the role was given to cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky, who had been on the ISS since April this year. The cosmonaut made three spacewalks during his mission. Another spaceman Peter Dubrov will also star in the film. Klim Shipenko revealed several secrets, saying that the film script was “adjusted” specifically for astronauts who were in orbit.
For his part, spaceship commander Anton Shkaplerov said that it had not been easy for him to learn his lines which were not poetry but prose. Peresild admitted that she was most worried about whether there would be any changes in her appearance while under zero gravity.
We didn’t always do well during training sessions and “not everything was easy,” said Shipenko on the Evening Urgant at Baikonur (Launch Site) TV show. The four months of training cannot make you an accomplished astronaut, artist or doctor. According to Shipenko, they are not going to change their professions.
Actress Yulia Peresild, for her part, said that theory, in particular, studying the layout of the Soyuz spacecraft, was the most difficult part for her. For a fortnight, she had to memorize abbreviations to be able to understand everything. Her professional memory was of great help there, she said. The trials were difficult but much easier than theory classes.
The media reported in May that a Russian “movie crew” would be sent to the ISS for the first time. This exciting and solemn moment has already happened. Now, both professional actors and cosmonauts are shooting the world's first film in space.