A new frontier in space: Moviemaking

The Russian space program has seen better days. However, what it can no longer do in real life, Russia is about to do in the form of a major motion picture. The trailer for “The Challenge,” a film partly shot on the International Space Station (ISS), has recently dropped.

The plot concerns a trip to the ISS by a Russian heart surgeon to perform a risky microgravity operation on an injured cosmonaut. The film was the brainchild of Dmitry Rogozin, the former head of the Russian Space Agency Roscosmos, as a way to restore the prestige of the Russian space program. The project received pushback in Russian aerospace and scientific circles as a misuse of state resources. Rumor has it that Russian President Vladimir Putin himself gave the greenlight, thus overwhelming all opposition.

Just from the look of the trailer, the production values of “The Challenge” seem pretty good. The scenes shot on the ISS and the Soyuz launch are eye-poppingly impressive. However, movies tend to succeed from the quality of the writing, the directing and especially the acting. The idea of an emergency open heart surgery in microgravity has enough science fiction and suspense elements that it should work, if well executed.

But even if “The Challenge” is a great movie, it will probably not resuscitate the fortunes of the Russian space program. The problems afflicting the once mighty Russian space effort cannot be fixed by glitz and glamor. A lack of funding coupled with reported endemic corruption and incompetence has kept Moscow’s dreams of space glory on the ground.

No one attached to the movie is well-known in the West. The war against Ukraine has soured the world against anything Russian. “The Challenge” will likely attract few audiences outside of Russia.

“The Challenge” is not the first Russian-produced full-length film partly shot in space. In 1984, a Soviet production company produced a film entitled “Return from Orbit,” partly shot on board the space station Saylut 7. The movie depicted an emergency evacuation of the Soviet space facility after one of the cosmonauts is injured.

The current Russian project is not even the first film shot on the ISS. Computer game millionaire Richard Garriott shot a short called “Apogee of Fear” during his trip to the space station several years ago.

Ironically, another film in development will likely have a worldwide effect by displaying the glory and dangers inherent in space flight. Actor Tom Cruise and director Doug Liman are working on a movie that will be partly shot on the International Space Station. The project enjoys the cooperation of both NASA and SpaceX.

Cruise’s space movie doesn’t have a title or a plot that has been revealed publicly yet. Axiom, a Houston-based company, has been contracted to build a module that will serve as a film studio and attach it to the ISS no earlier than December 2024. If that date holds, the space footage of Cruise’s movie could be shot the following year.

Can Cruise pull this project off? The quoted production budget, $200 million, is on the high side, although not unprecedented for a major, blockbuster movie. Much of the budget will likely be eaten up by getting Cruise to and from the ISS. The movie will also involve Cruise doing a spacewalk, a dangerous operation even for a trained astronaut, not to mention an actor.

On the other hand, Cruise is an internationally recognized superstar, thanks largely to his “Mission Impossible” movies. His latest film, “Top Gun: Maverick,” was one of the highest-grossing of 2022. If anyone can get a film partly shot on location in space, that man is Tom Cruise. Even in his 60s, Cruise still does his own stunts, as dangerous as they might be.

Repeating the caveats about the success or failure of a movie referenced for “The Challenge,” considering Cruise’s track record, his project is likely to be a box office hit. But will the movie have the same effect for NASA and SpaceX that the Russians hope their project will have for their space program?

Unlike Russia, NASA and her international and commercial partners have a robust space program. Just as the “Top Gun” movies sparked a surge of recruitment for the Navy, Cruise’s space movie may ignite renewed support for NASA space exploration —while eclipsing “The Challenge” at the box office.

Mark R. Whittington is the author of space exploration studies “Why is It So Hard to Go Back to the Moon?” as well as “The Moon, Mars and Beyond,” and “Why is America Going Back to the Moon?” He blogs at Curmudgeons Corner.  

Source link

Denial of responsibility! planetcirculate is an automatic aggregator around the global media. All the content are available free on Internet. We have just arranged it in one platform for educational purpose only. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials on our website, please contact us by email – [email protected]. The content will be deleted within 24 hours.