Space Crew Celebrates Movie-Watching Tradition
The Soyuz TMA-16 crew's parody of the movie poster for "The White Sun of the Desert" is displayed on the 40th anniversary of the film.
Credit: RSC Energia

Before soaring into space early Wednesday, two professional astronauts and a space tourist made sure to take part in an age-old tradition.

They watched a movie.

Like countless cosmonauts before them, NASA astronaut Jeff Williams, Russian cosmonaut Maxim Suraev, and Canadian space tourist Guy Laliberte prepared for their liftoff from Kazakhstan's Baikonur Cosmodrome by watching "The White Sun of the Desert," a 1969 Russian hit film.

The ritual has become a mainstay for crews preparing to ride Russian Soyuz vehicles into space. This particular occasion was special, though.

"This year is the 40th anniversary of when the 'White Sun of the Desert' movie was made, and we have a tradition, observed unfailingly, both the crew prime and backup are going to watch the movie," Suraev said through a translator Tuesday during a press conference.

The spaceflyers even made a poster about the film to celebrate the occasion.

"Also, Guy made t-shirts," Suraev said.

The three modeled their shirts at the end of the press conference, ripping open their blue crew suit fronts to reveal matching "White Sun of the Desert" duds.

The film is an action-comedy-drama, with a Western flair, about a Russian soldier fighting in Central Asia during the Russian Civil War around 1920. It is hugely popular in Russia, and has spun off a number of famous catchphrases in Russian.

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