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    New Blockbuster About First Human Spacewalk Tops Russian Box Office

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    'Time of Pioneers', a new Russian historical drama about cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, the first human being to perform a spacewalk, has topped the Russian box office in the first week following its release.

    Alternatively translated as 'Time of Those Who Came First', the film, set in the 1960s, during the Cold War-era space race between the Soviet Union and the United States, describes the incredible true story of the adverse and life-threatening situations Leonov and fellow cosmonaut Pavel Belyaev faced during and after Leonov's legendary first spacewalk on March 18, 1965 from the Voskhod 2 spacecraft.

    Cosmonautics Day celebrated in Russia
    © Sputnik / Evgeny Biyatov
    The movie, released just in time for Russia's celebration of Cosmonautics Day, topped the country's box office over the weekend following its release on Thursday, according to Russian film portal kinobusiness.com.

    Produced and directed by Russian director Dmitri Kiselev, with director Yuri Bykov also taking part in the project, the drama tells the story behind the iconic footage that was released to the world in 1965, when Leonov became the first human being to step out into open space. The film received support from the Russian government's Cinema Foundation, and additional support from private sponsors.

    The historical drama documents the many close calls and even life-threatening emergencies that the cosmonauts faced during their flight, and upon their return to Earth, including Leonov's troubles returning to the spacecraft following his spacewalk, and problems during reentry, when Leonov and Belyaev ended up landing in the unhospitable taiga, from which they had to be rescued. The film highlights the limits to technology, and humanity's limited understanding of conditions in space at the time, which made the cosmonauts' effort a truly heroic undertaking.

    On Tuesday, Leonov and Valentina Tereshkova, first woman in space, joined President Vladimir Putin for a special screening of the space biopic. Putin used the occasion to thank Russia's cosmonauts, workers in the Russian space industry, and  filmmakers. "We have something to be proud of," the president said following the screening. "What you have done, promoting our achievements, allows for these achievements to be replicated," he said, speaking to the film's creators.

    Russia and much of the former Soviet Union celebrates Cosmonautics Day on April 12. The holiday was established in 1962 in honor of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin's April 12, 1961 spaceflight aboard the Vostok 1 spacecraft. Gagarin and the pantheon of other cosmonauts continue to be looked on with pride by people across the former Soviet Union, even a quarter century after the breakup of the country.


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