Space Tourists: a cinematic journey to the ISS (w/ Audio Interview)

Space Tourists airs tonight on the Documentary Channel at 8pm & 11pm

When Anousheh Ansari boarded the International Space Station on September 20th, 2006, she became the first self-funded female, the first Iranian citizen, and the fourth human overall to enter the Earth’s orbit as a coveted ‘space tourist’.

After building and selling a large telecom business, Ansari had decided that she would pay over $20 million USD to take a ride on the Russian Soyuz TMA-9 and orbit Earth as a crew member of the International Space Station for 8 days. While training as a backup for Daisuke Enomoto, who failed to meet the required medical qualifications, Ansari was notified that her lifelong dream would be fulfilled – with only one month remaining before liftoff.

Meanwhile, without Ansari’s knowledge, a charismatic Swiss filmmaker had begun to collect material for a documentary that explored the peculiar circumstances of the Russian space tourism industry. Gathering footage at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia and at the Baikonur Cosmodrome (the Soyuz’s launch facility), filmmaker Christian Frei began to lay the foundation for what would become the first documentary to uncover a highly exclusive and secretive world.

The finished product, Space Tourists, debuted in the US at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. Thought it never had an overwhelming reception in North America, it is arguably one of the most fascinating travel-themed documentaries to have been produced in recent years and a must-see for anyone with a sense of adventure or a distant dream of venturing to space.

Frei’s film uncovers many facets of the Russian space tourism program that are especially compelling to watch unfold on the big screen.

From the pre-launch rituals at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, to the group of men that make a living by hunting down and recovering the enormous scrap metal that falls to Earth from every Soyuz launch; Frei’s film captures an incredible spectrum of physical environments, people/cultures, and brilliantly contrasts the magnificence of spaceflight in direct contrast with the trivial hardships of life on Earth.

It’s a film that’s both visually arresting and offers to bring the viewer on a journey with each of the characters that it follows – from training to touchdown and everywhere in between.

Space Tourists is currently being featured on the Documentary Channel airing tonight at 8pm and 11pm, or available on DVD via the Documentary Channel online store.

Click below for an exclusive, uncut interview with Anousheh Ansari & filmmaker Christian Frei:

GADLING’S TAKE FIVE: Week of October 1

Buckle down everyone and grab some hot cocoa. It’s time for another weekly dose of Gadling’s Take Five.

5. Shrink is Located in Terminal A:
Fear of flying? Get help and get over it! Iva brings a great piece from USA Today which talks of Buenos Aires response to those who are afraid to fly. You can now find a shrink in the terminal. Can someone say “hooray?”

4. America’s Best Restaurants:

Eating is one of our favorite past times and can be especially delightful while on the road. That is unless you are eating junk 24/7. Skip the ick food and swing into America’s 50 Best Restaurants as found in Gourmet Magazine.

3. Hidden Gems: Pamir Botanical Gardens:
Tour the world’s second highest botanical gardens found in Tajikistan or specifically in the Pamirs. Take a look at photos and my first hand experience traveling through parts of Central Asia where little is known.

2. Playboy Club Reopens:

I’m sure heels are clicking somewhere over this news provided by Neil. The new Playboy Club have reopened in Las Vegas’ Palms Hotel starting today. Fella’s beware of any women dressed as bunnies and remember always to behave.

1. Space Tourist Anousheh Ansari Blogs:

Envious – indeed we are! How I’d love to travel to space and I’m sure there are many folks who feel just the way I do. Until we can afford it, I mean, until we get our chance there are other outlets. In the meantime we can read the blogs of the most recent tourist to soar out of this world, Anousheh Ansari.