SpaceX’s movie-in-space plans could launch a new era for filmmaking

The space-faring firm may be about to boldly go where no film producer has gone before.

Astronaut in outer space over the planet Earth. Our home. ISS. Elements of this image furnished by N...

SpaceX may be about to boldly go where no film director has gone before.

The space-faring firm is reportedly set to shoot an entire feature-length movie in space, teaming up with famed Hollywood actor Tom Cruise for an action-adventure flick. Deadline reported Monday that the project involves NASA, currently has no studio attached and is in the very early stages. It's also not a Mission: Impossible film, the six-movie franchise that first hit theater screens in 1996 and will return for a seventh in 2021.

Tom Cruise: set for space?

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It's the latest in a series of moves by SpaceX toward expanding its offerings beyond its current focus on launching space satellites with its Falcon 9 rocket. The firm has big plans for manned missions like a lunar base, a trip around the moon, and a city on Mars. Its Starship rocket, currently under development in Texas, is expected to bring launch costs down even further with a fully-reusable design.

SpaceX's Starship prototype.

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Cruise's film may be the first feature-length movie filmed in space, but it's arguably not the first movie made in space. That accolade likely belongs to Richard Garriott, one of the first pirvate space tourists that shot the five-minute sci-fi flick in 2008 aboard the International Space Station:

Fortunately, the bar has been set rather low for Cruise's film – Thrillist described Garriott's effort as "often awkward."

The Starship could help power ideas like these and more. The ship is designed to send over 150 tons or 100 people into space at a time, compared to the Falcon 9 that can only send less than 10 tons to geosynchronous transfer orbit. In November 2019, CEO Elon Musk suggested the ship could fly for just $2 million per launch. When compared to the publicly-facing price tag of $62 million for the Falcon 9, it's easy to see how this lowered price could unlock new opportunities for spaceflight.

Beyond shooting a film, SpaceX has a number of big ideas for moving further into entertainment. The "Dear Moon" mission, set for sometime in 2023, will send Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa and a team of six to eight artists on a trip around the moon. The goal is to inspire a team to create new artworks around their trip – perhaps drawing on the "overview effect" experienced by astronauts when they see the Earth in its entirety from space.

Musk has also previously shared an image of the Starship hosting a concerto during its flight. The ship is expected to feature a common area like this in its crew configuration.

Although SpaceX has yet to even launch a person into space, that's about to change soon. On May 27, the firm will launch humans for the first time using the Crew Dragon craft. NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will visit the International Space Station as part of the "Demo-2" mission, staying for an extended period of time before returning to Earth and providing training data in the process.

The Inverse analysis – This could be another way that SpaceX redefines how people interact with outer space. While there have been numerous movies set in space, there has yet to be a feature-length film that actually takes the plunge.

It could have a long-lasting effect on the movie business. Imagine if a film like Gravity or Ad Astra used real space for its settings, adding to the realism. Moonraker may have lost some of its charm had it actually been filmed in space, but shooting in space could offer broader scope for directors to represent space without worrying so much about how to simulate the look of space.

The Inverse Analysis—Southern California has long been defined by two industries: Hollywood and aerospace. Rarely have those industries interacted, although Tom Cruise has been there the few times they have (see Top Gun). With this newest potential move, the two industries could get a whole lot closer.

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