Russian cosmonauts arrive at ISS wearing Ukrainian colours of yellow and blue

‘We had accumulated a lot of yellow material so we needed to use it,’ a cosmonaut said

Vishwam Sankaran
Saturday 19 March 2022 10:34
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Related video: On the ground with civilian volunteers in Ukraine

Three Russian cosmonauts arrived at the International Space Station on Friday wearing flight suits in the colours of the Ukrainian flag, mostly yellow with blue accents.

Cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveyev and Sergey Korsakov successfully blasted off from Russia’s launch facility in Kazakhstan in their Soyuz MS-21 spacecraft on Friday, and when the spacecraft docked at the space station three hours later and they boarded, they were seen wearing flight suits in striking yellow and blue.

Russia said the suits were selected and packed a few months before the mission launch. Speaking about the choice of colours, Mr Artemyev said they had accumulated a lot of yellow material “so we needed to use it”.

“So that’s why we had to wear yellow.”

Since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February, many people across the world have used the Ukrainian flag and its colours to show solidarity with the country.

The cosmonauts did not say anything suggesting the suit colours were a political statement, but observers said the match with the Ukrainian flag would be an unlikely coincidence.

Eric Berger, senior space editor at Ars Technica, said it could be a coincidence, but added that “it seems like a very, very big coincidence if so”.

“I still haven’t found anyone who really knows why the Russian cosmonauts wore yellow flight suits to board the ISS. Just wild if they smuggled these suits on board,” he said.

In recent weeks, since the war in Ukraine began, there has been noticeable friction between Russia’s space agency Roscosmos and some of its partners and customers.

US president Joe Biden said late last month after imposing a set of economic sanctions on Russia that the move would “degrade their space programme”.

Earlier this month OneWeb, a satellite company partially owned by the British government, cancelled launches of its internet satellites that were due to travel on Russia’s Soyuz rockets. And on Thursday, the European Space Agency also suspended a mission to Mars that was to launch on a Russian rocket.

Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin responded with a series of messages on Twitter, including retweeting a parody video suggesting Russia would leave behind US astronaut Mark Vande Hei who is scheduled to return to Earth from the ISS in a Russian spacecraft later this month.

But Nasa has held that despite the war, the collaborative operations between it and Roscosmos will continue, and that astronauts from the two countries will continue to safely conduct research operations in low-Earth orbit aboard the ISS.

Roscosmos also confirmed that it would return US astronaut Mark Vande Hei on board Russia’s space capsule vehicle as scheduled, despite tensions between the two countries back on Earth.

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