Watch Russia beat NASA and Tom Cruise to launch the first film crew to the space station on Tuesday

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Watch Russia beat NASA and Tom Cruise to launch the first film crew to the space station on Tuesday
Cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, actress Yulia Peresild and film director Klim Shipenko attend a training session for their expedition to the International Space Station, at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, September 19, 2021. Roscosmos/Handout via Reuters

Russia is about to win a race against NASA to film the first full-length movie in space.

The Russian space agency, Roscosmos, plans to launch a two-person film crew to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard a Soyuz rocket on Tuesday. Actress Yulia Peresild and director Klim Shipenko are set to climb aboard the spacecraft with cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, lifting off from Kazakhstan at 4:55 a.m. ET.

NASA TV will broadcast the launch live in the video embedded below. The livestream will also include the spaceship docking to the ISS at 8:12 a.m. ET, then show the film star, director, and cosmonaut floating into the station at about 10 a.m.

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Shkaplerov will tally his fourth spaceflight as he pilots the spaceship. On the space station, Peresild and Shipenko are scheduled to spend 10 days filming on Russia's side, with the help of cosmonauts. In the movie, called "Challenge," Peresild plays a doctor who launches to the ISS to save a cosmonaut, according to The New York Times.

Watch Russia beat NASA and Tom Cruise to launch the first film crew to the space station on Tuesday
The Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft blasts off to the space station from Kazakhstan, April 9, 2021. NASA/Bill Ingalls/Handout via Reuters

"I am not afraid," Peresild said in a recent news conference, according to the Times. Still, she added, "fear is normal."

As part of her training, Peresild went on a parabolic airplane flight, which flies arcs up and down to simulate the microgravity of the ISS for about 30 seconds at a time.

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"For the first two seconds it's scary," Peresild said, according to the Times. "After that, it's beautiful."

Watch Russia beat NASA and Tom Cruise to launch the first film crew to the space station on Tuesday
Actress Yulia Peresild ahead of her expedition to the International Space Station, September 19, 2021. Andrey Shelepin/GCTC/Roscosmos/Handout via Reuters

She's poised to beat Tom Cruise to become the first actor to film in space. NASA announced last year that it was in talks with Cruise about filming a movie on the ISS, but no timeline was ever publicized.

Roscosmos announced its own space-movie mission a few months later, sending out a casting call for actresses to star in it. The agency ultimately tapped Peresild and reshuffled its spaceflight schedule to make an October launch possible.

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NASA will break a spaceflight record by making room for the film crew

Peresild and Shipenko are set to return to Earth on another Soyuz spaceship on October 16, landing in Kazakhstan just after midnight ET the next day. Shkaplerov will stay aboard the station to carry out a six-month shift, while cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy will finish his shift and return home with the film crew.

Watch Russia beat NASA and Tom Cruise to launch the first film crew to the space station on Tuesday
NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei does maintenance inside the space station's Harmony module, June 9, 2021. NASA

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and cosmonaut Petr Dubrov, who flew up to the ISS with Novitskiy, are giving up their return seats for the actress and director. The two men will instead return to Earth in March after spending nearly a year in space. By then, Vande Hei's mission will be the longest spaceflight ever completed by an American, breaking the previous record held by astronaut Scott Kelly.

"I don't think it's really my record - I think it would be the whole team's," Vande Hei told Insider in August. "It's just another step forward for humanity. I also don't expect that to be a record that would last very long, because we're doing bigger and better things all the time."

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One year in space would be "a drop in the bucket compared to a Mars flight," he added.

2021 is the year of amateur spacefarers

Watch Russia beat NASA and Tom Cruise to launch the first film crew to the space station on Tuesday
The Inspiration4 crew inside a model Crew Dragon spaceship. Left to right: Chris Sembroski, Sian Proctor, Jared Isaacman, and Hayley Arceneaux. SpaceX

Peresild and Shipenko are joining a new cohort of space tourists and amateur astronauts.

In July, billionaire Richard Branson flew to the edge of space, experiencing microgravity as he lingered there for a few minutes aboard a space plane built by his company, Virgin Galactic. Then just nine days later, Jeff Bezos skimmed the edge of space aboard the New Shepard spacecraft developed by Blue Origin, the company he founded in 2000.

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In September, SpaceX launched its first tourist crew into orbit. Billionaire Jared Isaacman chartered the company's Crew Dragon spaceship for a three-day flight. The mission, called Inspiration4, included Isaacman and three other people as its crew, none of whom are professional astronauts. The team did, however, complete nearly six months of training to operate the spaceship.

More amateur spaceflights are still to come. In December, Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa is scheduled to take a Soyuz spacecraft on his own joy ride to the ISS.

Then in February, SpaceX plans to launch three paying customers and one former astronaut to the space station for the company Axiom Space.

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This story has been updated. It was originally published on September 30, 2021.

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