An actress, an internet billionaire, and Tom Cruise walk into a space station ... not necessarily at the same time

It's Space Race 2 for Russia and America

Internet clothing mogul Yusaku Maezawa on Thursday said he and an assistant will take a 12-day trip to the International Space Station in December.

And Russia's space agency said actress Yulia Peresild and film director Klim Shipenko will blast off to the orbiting platform in early October.

Incredibly, Tom Cruise and director Doug Liman are expected to head to the ISS that same month to film a Hollywood space movie with NASA. No date has been set for that journey. It appears Russia and America are in a space race to get the first movie stars into orbit. Or as the Russians put it, to make "the first feature film to be filmed in space."

The last private civilians to journey to the space station were Microsoft Office supremo Charles Simonyi, who went went up for his second visit in April 2009, and Cirque du Soleil billionaire Guy Laliberté, who popped over in September that year.

Announcing his intention to fly to the space station on December 8 aboard a Russian vehicle, Maezawa said: “I’m so curious, ‘what’s life like in space?’ So, I am planning to find out on my own and share with the world on my YouTube channel."

The 45-year-old tycoon's travel companion will be Yozo Hirano, a former director of photography of Maezawa's online clothing biz Zozo, who will document the trip and share it online for the world to see. The two will attend the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Russia's Star City for three months of training, and will head into orbit atop a Soyuz-2.1a piloted by a professional astronaut on his third trip to the ISS.

Space Adventures, which organized the journey, didn't say how much the not-exactly executive class seats and accommodation would cost, though it's rumored to be in the $50m range. With a net worth of $2bn, Maezawa has money to burn, so much so that he has already booked a trip around the Moon with Elon Musk's SpaceX as well.

In 2018, Maezawa and Musk held a glitzy press conference announcing that the Japanese internet mogul will take a SpaceX Starship around the Moon by 2023 at the latest. Maezawa is offering eight other places on the journey to artists who are expected to create masterpieces inspired by the first tourist trip to our natural satellite.

NASA is looking to use Starship to deliver astronauts to the Moon as part of a $3bn contract, though that decision is now under review.

Before all that, though, Peresild, 36, and Shipenko, 37, are set to lift off to the International Space Station with cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov on October 5 from the Baikonur cosmodrome aboard a Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft.

Russia's space agency said the actress and director "will have to take centrifuge tests, vibration stand tests, perform introductory and training flights on a zero-gravity plane, and undergo parachute training" before they're cleared for launch.

They're being sent up to the space station to shoot scenes for a movie tentatively titled Challenge that the agency hopes will spark a wider interest in space. ®


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