Russian cosmonauts arrive at International Space Station in Ukrainian flag colored flight suits

(Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Three Russian cosmonauts blasted off from Earth on Friday with their destination the International Space Station (ISS). When they emerged three hours later after docking, their flight suits caused quite a stir. The flight suits were in the colors of the Ukrainian flag.

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The AP photo above is one of Putin and Roskosmos CEO Igor Komarov, and deputy premier Dmitry Rogozin during a visit to Roskosmos in Moscow. I mention that because the arrival of the cosmonauts at the ISS was livestreamed by the Russian space agency, Roscosmos. The sight of the cosmonauts in yellow and blue flight suits must have been awkward. The cosmonauts joked about it to lighten any tension back on earth.

On a live stream set up by Russian space agency Roscosmos, the three cosmonauts — Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveyev and Sergey Korsakov — could be seen entering the space station one by one, floating in the zero-gravity environment, and hugging the seven astronauts who were already in orbit. Their bright yellow clothing also includes two patches of blue, white and red — the colors of the Russian flag — on the arm and chest.

Shortly after reaching the International Space Station, the trio spoke to callers on the phone, including with family members who wished them a successful mission. When asked by a caller about their clothing choice, Artemyev responded that each crew is allowed to pick its own colors from a stock supply of equipment.

“We actually had a lot of yellow material, so we had to use it,” Artemyev explained. “So that’s why we had to wear yellow.”

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Ballsy move, gentlemen. I hope they are allowed to go home to their families upon their return to Russia and not held by the Mad Man of Moscow.

A couple of former American astronauts acknowledged the gesture in support of Ukrainians on Twitter. Terry Virts, a.k.a. Astro Terry, includes his support for Ukraine in his Twitter bio.

Scott Kelly, a former ISS commander and twin brother of Mark Kelly, tweeted out his surprise, too.

Are the flight suits a political statement? Yes, of course they are. Some say that yellow and blue represent the colors of Bauman Moscow State Technical University, the alma mater of the cosmonauts. It is described as a prominent institution for engineering studies. We know that Putin is cracking down on Russian protests against his war in Ukraine and has shut down independent media outlets, including banning social media platforms. He has jailed thousands of anti-war protesters, as protesting the Russian government is against the law. Exactly how much average Russians know about Putin’s invasion into Ukraine is in question, as most don’t have access to news on current events. What they get is Putin’s propaganda. Those in support of Putin’s war have adopted the letter “Z” as their signal of approval.

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Since Putin invaded Ukraine, the relationship between Russia and the United States in partnership in the space program has been strained. Rogozin threatened to cut off the supply of Russian-made rocket engines in rockets that fly supplies to the space station but rumors of severed ties proved false. The collaboration remains in place and an American astronaut currently at the space station will not be stranded in space.

On March 5, RIA Novosti, a media network owned by the Russian government, posted a video to its Telegram channel that it said was produced by Roscosmos, the Russian space agency. RIA Novosti said the video “jokingly” depicts Russia withdrawing from the International Space Station (ISS) program.

In the video, the Russian cosmonauts wave goodbye to Mark Vande Hei, an American astronaut on the space station, before detaching the Russian segment of the space station and departing.

But none of that actually happened; the space station remains intact, and neither NASA or Roscosmos have suggested their cooperation will end for the time being.

“We are not getting any indications at a working level that our counterparts are not committed to ongoing operation of the International Space Station,” Kathy Lueders, the lead on NASA’s human spaceflight program, said in a Feb. 28 press briefing. “We as a team are operating just like we were operating three weeks ago.”

A NASA blog posted on March 14 gave updates on a study the two Russians aboard the space station have been conducting, indicating that they remain on the ISS.

A NASA spokesperson confirmed in a statement to VERIFY that there have been no changes or planned changes to the partnership between the two countries.

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Oh to be a fly on the wall when Putin saw the cosmonauts in their flight suits for the first time. Godspeed, gentlemen.

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Jazz Shaw 9:20 AM | May 30, 2024
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