On October 5, one of Russia's most celebrated actresses, 36-year-old Yulia Peresild is blasting off to the International Space Station (ISS) with film director Klim Shipenko to shoot the first film in orbit before the United States do. If their plan falls into place, the Russians are expected to beat Mission Impossible star Tom Cruise and Hollywood director Doug Liman, who were first to announce their project together with NASA and Space X, the company of billionaire Elon Musk.
"I really want us to be not only the first but also the best," Peresild told AFP, with the clock ticking down to the planned October 5 blast-off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The Call the Russian project's working title was announced in September last year, four months after the Hollywood project. But apart from its grand ambitions, little is known about the film.
Its plot, which has been kept under wraps by the crew and Russia's space agency, has been revealed by Russian media outlets to feature a doctor dispatched urgently to the ISS to save a cosmonaut.
In preparation for this 21st-century space race, Peresild has since late May been undergoing intensive training at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre in Star City outside Moscow.
When she spoke to AFP, she had already managed the centrifuge and would be getting trained in how to survive in hostile environments for when she plummets back to Earth in a Soyuz capsule on October 17.
Still, she is focused on the task at hand.
The tiny film set of the ISS will be a challenging space in which to work, particularly for the director, who will also handle the cameras, lighting, sound and make-up.
"We will have to film in space what it is not possible to shoot on Earth," she says.
Peresild said that unlike many other Soviet children who grew up with Gagarin's feats looming large, she never dreamed of going to space.
She admits to feeling "afraid" when she was selected for the job from a pool of 3,000 candidates.
"I am not a superhero," she told AFP.
She said she had drawn inspiration from children involved in her Galchonok foundation that supports young people with disabilities.
"For them, picking up a spoon is like going to space for me."
They "must believe in the impossible".