A Russian team of two cosmonauts, a film director, and an actress is set to launch to the International Orbit Station (ISS) later Tuesday to film the first film in space, marking the latest twist in decades of space competition between Russia and the United States.
The four are set to launch at 0855 GMT on a Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft and dock at the station, which orbits Earth at a height of roughly 220 miles (354 km).
In the run-up to the event, Russian official media has been providing comprehensive and patriotic coverage, with a countdown clock on Channel One and news anchors portraying the development as a great breakthrough by Russia that the rest of the world is closely watching.
The fanfare contrasts with the mixed fortunes of Russia’s own space industry which has in recent years been dogged by delays, accidents and corruption scandals as U.S.-based private firms backed by rich businessmen have developed new spaceships.
The 12-day Russian mission follows the launch of the first all-civilian crew aboard a rocket and capsule developed by SpaceX, which was founded by businessman Elon Musk.
The Russian mission is designed to get in first before a Hollywood project announced earlier this year by actor Tom Cruise together with NASA and SpaceX.
Russia, first as the Soviet Union, and the United States have competed fiercely to reach various space exploration milestones: Russia launched the first satellite and put the first man and woman in space, but NASA beat it to the Moon landing.