NASA Confirms It's Working With Tom Cruise To Film A Movie In Space

Tom Cruise at the American premiere of 'Oblivion' at the Dolby Theatre, Hollywood. Jaguar PS/Shutterstock

Yesterday the Internet was aflutter with the rumor that Tom Cruise might be flying to outer space to film a new movie. Now, it has been confirmed by NASA Administrator himself, Jim Bridenstine, on Twitter. The Hollywood star, who is famous for doing all his own stunts, will fly to the International Space Station (ISS) at some point in the future, proving there is no limit to what he would do for authenticity for his craft.

Not much more is known about the movie. Some suspected the scenes filmed in space may be part of a future outing in the Mission: Impossible franchise, but according to Deadline, that is not the case and the movie is not affiliated with any studio just yet. Instead, Deadline reports Cruise, SpaceX, and NASA are working on a narrative feature film – an action adventure, naturally – that would be the first feature film shot in space.

There are a lot of accompanying questions surrounding the announcement, including how long Cruise will spend in space and the overall cost of such dedication to filming on location. For anyone who has dreamed of one day going into space, the questions are very intriguing. The answers will require a lot more information to be properly worked out but we can speculate based on a few factors.

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The ISS is about 408 kilometers (253 miles) from the surface of the planet but getting to it is not a straight trek. The space station is moving 27,600 kilometers per hour (17,100 miles per hour) so a spacecraft needs to match its speed and orbit. This approach certainly takes hours and in the past has taken days. The Russian Soyuz, currently the only way for crew to reach the ISS, has ranged between 50 hours to less than six in recent years.

Even assuming a quick rendezvous with the space station, unless special arrangements are made, Cruise and his team (assuming there will be a team) will be there for at least 12-13 days. This is the usual overlap when new astronauts and cosmonauts come on board to relieve some of the members of the mission. But it's possible the movie won’t jump on a crew switch launch. After all, the first-ever crewed SpaceX launch, and the first crewed mission to launch from American soil in a decade, is due to take place this month on May 27. If all goes well, maybe Cruise will hop on SpaceX's Crew Dragon and nip up there, although there is still a limit to how many people can be on the ISS at one time. It supports six people but during crew handovers accommodates nine, though only briefly.

The next question is the cost. The space station is among the most advanced labs on Earth (you know what we mean) with astronauts and cosmonauts conducting vital and cutting-edge research. Last year, NASA reserved a set amount of resources that could be used for commercial and marketing activities, as long they don’t interfere with the crew's work and, obviously, their safety.

Figure A: USOS Resources Allocated for Commercial Usage (not to scale). NASA

Under this, a private astronaut will have a bill of $33,750 (meals included) but not counting stowage, power, and Internet (around $50 per GB). For a 12 or 13-day adventure, we are looking at about $500,000. Pretty affordable in terms of a Hollywood movie budget, to be honest.

The much bigger cost is going to be getting there. If Cruise and the presumed film crew intend to travel to the ISS on Elon Musk's rocket, the cost of a single seat on the Crew Dragon launch vehicle is estimated in a NASA report to be around $55 million per seat. The spacecraft can fit four people, so Cruise plus team – camera operator, sound engineer, director? – would be much pricier, around $220 million. This doesn't take into consideration the cost of astronaut training that presumedly Cruise and anyone going with him would have to undertake.

The latest Mission Impossible movie grossed $791 million so maybe this expensive trip to space is an investment? Stay tuned.

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