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Shoot for the stars: Russian duo making world’s first space feature film set to return to Earth

The Soyuz MS-18 spaceship, piloted by veteran cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky, is scheduled to undock from the International Space Station (ISS) at around 4.15am Moscow time (01:15 GMT). About three hours later, the return capsule is to land in a remote part of Kazakhstan, bringing home Novitsky and two historic space visitors.

Actress Yulia Peresild and moviemaker Klim Shipenko were picked for a pioneering collaboration between Russia’s television Channel 1 and the national space agency Roscosmos. During their 12-day stay on board the ISS, they filmed footage for an upcoming feature-length movie called ‘The Challenge’, in which Peresild stars. Some 35-40 minutes of screen time will consist of images taken in actual space. RT runs special coverage of the groundbreaking mission.

The film plot centers around a female cardiac doctor who is called to go into orbit and perform heart surgery on a cosmonaut who got stranded there due to a condition. Further details of the plot remain undisclosed.

Ironically, there was a medical experiment carried out on board the ISS. According to Roscosmos, professional members of the crew conducted a study of how a human heart adapts to low-gravity conditions.

In addition to their filming duties, the two had a bunch of responsibilities that all crew members have on the ISS, like loading the MS-18 with everything that the ship needs to carry back to Earth.

The spacecraft made a relocation maneuver on Wednesday as part of preparations for the return trip, docking to the newest addition of the Russian segment of the station, the Nauka research module.  

After landing in Kazakhstan, the three crew members will have a 10-day recuperation period. However all of them are scheduled to take part in a press conference on Tuesday, when the amateur space explorers will be able to share their experiences.

Roscosmos has great hopes for the filmmaking project, expecting a surge of public interest in space programs thanks to it. It will also become a morale booster for people in the industry, agency head Dmitry Rogozin said. He expressed his gratitude to the producers for what he called a gesture of respect to “the thousands, tens of thousands of people, who work in the Russian space rocketry.”

The mission itself is also a sort of advertisement for Roscosmos’ pilot training regiment. It’s comparatively short, lasting just four months, but the agency says it’s comprehensive and well suited for other non-professionals, who in the future would get to fly to the ISS for whatever reasons.

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