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Tom Cruise and Russia will face off in the silliest space race ever

  • An unexpected space race has just begun, one that has the potential of being the silliest such “race” in history.
  • We learned earlier this year that Tom Cruise will shoot scenes for a space movie aboard the International Space Station at some point in the future.
  • Russia now plans to be the first country to shoot a movie inside the ISS, with plans already underway to send an actress and crew to space next October.

As if 2020 needed to get any weirder, there’s one more thing that will make this year stand out in the annals of history. It’s the year when the silliest space race of all time began. It’s not about SpaceX, NASA, or any other players in the industry, but between moviemakers who want to go to space and — wait for it — shoot movies.

News broke earlier this year that Tom Cruise will head to space as part of a $200 million space movie project to film action scenes aboard the International Space Station. If any actor was going to space to pull off their own stunts in an action movie, it had to probably Cruise, so no surprise there. But Russia, apparently, wants to beat him to it.

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For All Mankind is an Apple TV original series about the space race that I had time to enjoy this year. It proposes a reality where the real space race between the US and Russia was won by the latter. Russia wasn’t just the first country to go to space — it was also the first to the moon in this TV show.

In real life, Russia’s Yuri Gagarin was the first man in space, but that’s about all that Russia managed to win at the time. Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon, and Russia is yet to get there.

To remind the world of that achievement, Russia rushed in August to announce plans to vaccinate people against the novel coronavirus. The vaccine research wasn’t complete, and Russia didn’t have any scientific proof published to back up its vaccine. It was all perceived as a move to show that Russia still matters when it comes to science and research. That context is required to understand Russia’s next space move.

Russian TV station Channel One partnered with the Russian space agency Roscosmos for Challenge. The plan is to send an actress to space to film scenes for the movie, IndieWire reports.

Roscosmos posted the casting announcement, which is open to Russian residents only. The production is looking for “a real superhero to go to the stars…at the same time as becoming a big international star.” The chosen actress does not have to be a professional, but certain conditions are required. Women between 25 and 40 who are physically fit can apply — from the casting call:

The actress must weigh between 50 and 70 kg and have a ‘chest girth’ of up to 112 cm…Additionally, she must be able to run 1 km in three-and-a-half minutes or less, swim 800 m freestyle in 20 minutes, and dive from a three-meter springboard with an impressive technique.

Roscosmos must still be sour about SpaceX’s accomplishments from earlier this year when the company launched its first human-crewed mission to the ISS. No Russian company can make the same claim, so the next best thing is fighting for publicity. Then again, Cruise & co. are also doing it for the buzz. You don’t have to go to space to make good space movies. The Russians are going to space next October. It’s unclear when Tom Cruise and director Doug Liman will shoot their ISS scenes.

Even if Challenge becomes the first film shot in space, an achievement that’s probably not worth the costs and risks no matter who does it, it’s likely that Cruise’s space film will be the real victor. It’s like comparing the Russian vaccine to Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, and other vaccines from the West, if you will. Then again, the Russian movie might sell better and generate more interest than the Russian vaccine.

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