Russian actress and director blasted off to the International Space Station on Tuesday, October 5, 2021, in a historic bid to best the United States to film the first movie in orbit.

The Russian crew is set to beat a Hollywood project that was announced last year by “Mission Impossible” star Tom Cruise together with NASA and Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

Thirty seven year old Actress, Yulia Peresild, and thirty eight year old film director, Klim Shipenko, took off from the Russia-leased Baikonur Cosmodrome in ex-Soviet Kazakhstan at the expected time of 0855 GMT, with docking scheduled for 1212 GMT.

Led by veteran cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, the film crew will travel in a Soyuz MS-19 spaceship for a 12-day mission at the ISS to film scenes for “The Challenge”.

A live broadcast on Russian TV showed the Soyuz spacecraft ascending into a cloudless sky.

The movie’s plot, which has been mostly kept under wraps along with its budget, was revealed by Roscosmos to centre around a female surgeon who is dispatched to the ISS to save a cosmonaut.

Shkaplerov and two other Russian cosmonauts aboard the ISS are said to have cameo roles in the film.

The ISS crew, which also includes a French, a Japanese and three NASA astronauts, will welcome the newcomers when the hatch opens at around 1410 GMT.

Meanwhile, Peresild — who was selected out of 3,000 applicants for the role — said at a pre-flight press conference on Monday, October 4, 2021: “It was difficult psychologically, physically and emotionally… but I think when we reach our goal all the challenges won’t seem so bad.”

Shipenko and Peresild are expected to return to Earth on October 17 in a capsule with cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky, who has been on the ISS for the past six months.

If successful, the mission will add to a long list of firsts for Russia’s space industry.

For political analyst Konstantin Kalachev, the space film is a matter of PR and a way to “distract” Russians from the “problems” that Roscosmos is facing.

“This is supposed to inspire Russians, show how cool we are, but I think Russians have completely lost interest in the space industry,” Kalachev told newsmen.

In a bid to spruce up its image and diversify its revenue, Russia’s space programme revealed this year that it will be reviving its tourism programme to ferry fee-paying adventurers to the ISS.

After a decade-long pause, Russia will send two Japanese tourists — including billionaire Yusaku Maezawa — to the ISS in December, capping a year that has been a milestone for amateur space travel.