A Soyuz spacecraft carrying a Russian film crew docked at the International Space Station today (Oct. 5) after a short flight from Earth to begin a 12-day movie shoot in orbit.
The Soyuz linked up with the space station at 8:22 am EDT after a four-hour trip that began with a successful launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The Soyuz ferried Russian actress Yulia Peresild and director Klim Shipenko to the station alongside veteran cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, who commanded the capsule. Peresild and Shipenko will spend the next 12 days shooting scenes for a space film called “The Challenge” on the station.
The fast-track rendezvous sent the Soyuz on a two-orbit trip around Earth to reach the International Space Station, which it did completely automatically under Shkaplerov’s watchful eye. The Soyuz was also expected to dock itself at the Earth-facing Rassvet module on the station, but an communications issue forced Shkaplerov to take manual control of the capsule to dock the spacecraft.
Peresild and Shipenko filmed scenes for their movie during the approach, prompting jokes from the Russian flight control team that the last minute drama was staged to add suspense to the plot.
“It was a little dramatic at the end in order for your movie to be more dramatic,” Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin radioed to Shkaplerov after the successful docking.
The capsule docked just as the space station was flying over the Philippines.
“So the Soyuz MS-19’s safely at port, and a Russian actress and her producer-director are on set at the International Space Station for 12 days of movie making,” NASA spokesperson Rob Navias said during live commentary.
In a brief exchange with the ground control the two spaceflight participants said they enjoyed the sunrises and sunsets they were treated to during the flight.
The two will spend 12 days aboard the station filming “The Challenge” with Peresild in a role of a surgeon sent to the space station to treat a cosmonaut struck by a heart attack during a spacewalk. Cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky will portray the ailing space traveler. Most of the filming will take place in the Russian segment of the space station but some scenes will be filmed in the Earth-viewing cupola, which is attached to the Tranquility Node of the U.S. segment.
The two flight participants will have to be escorted when outside the Russian segment of the station.
Novitsky and Pyotr Dubrov filmed the approach of the Soyuz capsule from aboard the space station. Dubrov and Shkaplerov, too, are expected to appear in the film.
The filmmakers will return to Earth on Oct. 17 together with Novitsky, who is wrapping up a months-long trip to the station. To accommodate the film project, the first-ever professional movie shot at the space station, the missions of Dubrov and American astronaut Mark Vande Hei, who arrived with Novitsky in April, had to be extended by six months.
They are now expected to return in April with Shkaplerov. This extension will make Vande Hei’s space trip the longest of all American astronauts in history.
Peresild, Shipenko and Shkaplerov launched into space at 4:55 a.m. EDT (0855 GMT or 1:55 p.m. local time) on Tuesday (Oct. 5) on a Soyuz 2.1a rocket that was specially decorated for the movie.