Several months after NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine confirmed the project was in the works, sources are now reporting that Tom Cruise and director Doug Liman will officially be making the trip to the International Space Station in October of 2021 to film scenes for an as of yet untitled movie. Cruise and Liman previously worked together on the science fiction spectacle Edge of Tomorrow in 2014, which may give us a hint at what the duo are planning for their trip to the final frontier.
Industry insiders claim that the two film makers and potentially a female co-star will fly aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule under the command of Michael López-Alegría, a veteran astronaut who currently holds the American record for number and duration of extra-vehicular activities (EVAs). The mission is being organized by Axiom Space, which previously announced they would perform a series of privately funded flights to the ISS as a precursor to constructing their own commercial expansion to the orbiting laboratory.
Of course, with more than a year before liftoff, anything could happen. SpaceX has been linked, officially or otherwise, to several private trips to space that literally and figuratively never got off the ground.
Mars-One was touting concept art that showed a fleet of modified SpaceX Dragons on the Red Planet as far back as 2012, and Elon Musk himself once announced that the Falcon Heavy would send private passengers on a trip around the Moon by the end of 2018. But to date, a pair of NASA astronauts have been the only humans to actually fly on SpaceX hardware.
Undoubtedly, some will see this flight of fancy as a waste of valuable resources. After all, there’s no shortage of scientists and researchers who would be more deserving of trip to a space than Jerry Maguire. But according to Bridenstine, the hope is that a big budget Hollywood film featuring scenes shot on the ISS could do for NASA what Top Gun once did for the Navy:
There was a day when I was in elementary school and I saw Top Gun. From that day, I knew I was going to be a Navy pilot. If we can get Tom Cruise to inspire an elementary kid to join the Navy and be a pilot, why can’t we get Tom Cruise to inspire the next Elon Musk? That’s what we need.
While we might not all agree on who the next generation of engineers should look to for inspiration, the impact that Top Gun had on Navy recruitment in the 80s and 90s is well established. If sending Tom Cruise to space for a few weeks might help inspire more kids to look into a STEM education, it’s probably worth a shot. Though it seems like Tom Hanks and his fellow Apollo 13 crew mates did a respectable enough job celebrating the incredible engineering behind NASA’s greatest triumph without actually going into orbit themselves.