We're just a week away from the launch of a Russian film crew to the International Space Station.
Director Klim Shipenko, actor Yulia Peresild and cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov are scheduled to launch toward the orbiting lab aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft next Tuesday (Oct. 5). The trio will lift off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan just before 5 a.m. EDT (0900 GMT), if all goes according to plan.
Once they get to the station, Shipenko and Peresild will film part of a movie called "Challenge," which is a joint production of the Moscow-based film studio Yellow, Black and White, Russia's Channel One and Roscosmos, the nation's federal space agency.
Shipenko and Peresild will come back to Earth in a different Soyuz spacecraft on Oct. 17, along with cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy, who's been living on the space station since April. Shkaplerov, however, will remain in orbit over the longer haul.
The coming mission is the first of several scheduled to send non-professional astronauts to the station over the next few months. In December, Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, video producer Yozo Hirano and cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin will launch on a Soyuz, on a trip booked via the Virginia company Space Adventures. Like Shipenko and Persild, Maezawa and Hirano will spend 12 days in orbit.
Then, in late February, Axiom Space's Ax-1 mission will send four people to the station on a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule. Three of them are paying customers; the fourth is former NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegría, an Axiom employee who will command the mission.
These upcoming flights are coming on the heels of the first-ever all-private crewed flight to Earth orbit — SpaceX's Inspiration4 mission, which sent Jared Isaacman, Hayley Arceneaux, Sian Proctor and Chris Sembroski aloft on a Crew Dragon.
Inspiration4 — which was booked and commanded by Isaacman, the billionaire founder and CEO of Shift4 Payments — did not meet up with the International Space Station, however. The Crew Dragon zoomed around Earth solo for three days, flying significantly higher than the orbiting lab, before splashing down off the Florida coast on Sept. 18.
Mike Wall is the author of "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.