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Space Crew Celebrates Movie-Watching Tradition

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. (Image credit: RSC Energia)

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

They watcheda movie.

Like countless cosmonauts before them, NASA astronaut JeffWilliams, Russian cosmonaut Maxim Suraev, and Canadian space tourist GuyLaliberte prepared for theirliftoff 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 rideRussian Soyuz vehicles into space. This particular occasion was special,though.

"This year is the 40th anniversary of when the 'WhiteSun of the Desert' movie was made, and we have a tradition, observedunfailingly, 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 tocelebrate the occasion.

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

The three modeled their shirts at the end of the pressconference, 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 duringthe Russian Civil War around 1920. It is hugely popular in Russia, and hasspun off a number of famous catchphrases in Russian.

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Clara Moskowitz
Clara has been's Assistant Managing Editor since 2011, and has been writing for and LiveScience since 2008. Clara has a bachelor's degree in astronomy and physics from Wesleyan University, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what her latest project is, you can follow Clara on Google+.