This company plans to launch a movie studio in space, but it’s not the first time

Space Entertainment Enterprise is co-producing an upcoming feature film shot in space starring Tom Cruise

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When news broke this week, this UK-based media company Space Entertainment Company (SEE) was planning to launch an orbital movie studio by 2024, I had to laugh. This plan is so 2000!

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This was the year that the American company Spacehab Inc. (still as Astrotech Corp.) announced that it planned to build an orbiting television studio (remember “TV”?) for a cost $100 million. It would be launched in 2002 on a Russian rocket and docked with the International Space Station then under construction. “We’re talking about generating content in the space,” company president Shelly Harrison said at the time.

The plan did not materialize, although at least the ISS is still there. The same year as Spacehab’s announcement, Russian company MirCorp launched two cosmonauts to the derelict Mir space station with the intention of reactivating it for use as a filming facility. However, insufficient funding meant the station was de-orbited the following year, crashing into a fiery comeback akin to something out of a movie.

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More recently, Russia sent actress Yulia Peresild and director Klim Shipenko to the ISS, where they shot footage for an upcoming movie, The challenge , about a heart surgeon who must perform an emergency operation in space. (The alternate title for the movie, and the one I hope they use, is apparently Doctor’s home call .) They returned to Earth on October 17 after 12 days in space. The film has not yet been released.

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SEE is the company co-producing an upcoming feature film shot in space starring Tom Cruise and directed by Doug Liman, though that project hasn’t (literally) kicked off yet. When it was announced in July 2020, the untitled Tom Cruise/SpaceX project was touted as the first feature film to be shot in space, though that boast is also debatable.

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Return from orbit is a 1984 Soviet film about a daring orbit rescue, and included scenes shot aboard the Salyut 7 space station and the Soyuz T-9 spacecraft. This in addition to the many documentaries that have been shot in space, such as the 1994 Imax film Fate in space , featuring Canadian astronaut Roberta Bondar.

Of course, the urge to build a production facility in orbit (or at least pretend to have done so) is almost as old as the space age. An April 1968 Associated Press article referred to the Apollo 7 spacecraft as an “orbiting studio”, with the three astronauts performing a live television broadcast on Earth.

Mission Commander Walter Schirra showed off his space-grown beard but wouldn’t admit there was any gray in it. “Only my hairdresser knows that,” he said, referring to a 1957 advertisement for Clairol hair products (“Only your hairdresser knows for sure”), and thus possibly the first advertisement shot in space.

As the astronauts passed the camera around, Schirra joked, “You have three professional cameramen here now, so when we get back, we hope to get our union cards.” If that’s not the first studio in space, I don’t know what is.

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