Frame grab from video provided by Roscosmos shows Russian cosmonauts Sergey Korsakov, Oleg Artemyev … [+] and Denis Matveyev arriving at the International Space Station, Friday, March 18, 2022. (Roscosmos via AP)
Three Russian cosmonauts set the internet ablaze on Friday when they boarded the International Space Station (ISS) wearing yellow and blue spacesuits, which are the colors of the Ukrainian flag.
Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveyev and Sergey Korsakov are the first new arrivals to the station since the start of the Russia-Ukraine war. They launched from Kazakhstan in a Soyuz MS-21 spacecraft on Friday and docked at the Space Station just a few hours later.
Artemyev commented on the striking suits in a video taken as the spacecraft prepared to dock with the station. “It became our turn to pick a color. But in fact, we had accumulated a lot of yellow material so we needed to use it. So that’s why we had to wear yellow,” he said, according to the Associated Press.
Still, many have taken the colors to be a statement by the cosmonauts in support of Ukraine amid the Russian invasion of the country. Former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly tweeted about the spacesuits, calling the color “Ukrainian yellow.” Earlier this month, Kelly was engaged in a public, online feud with Dmitry Rogozin, the head of the Russia’s space agency Roscosmos.
Though Rogozin said the US sanctions against Russia had the potential to “destroy” Russian cooperation on the ISS, astronauts who spoke with Forbes in late February maintained that astronauts have always cooperated on the station even during geopolitical tensions below.
Others are not so sure that there is any political meaning behind the color choice of the suits. Artemyev, Matveyev and Korsakov are all graduates of Bauman Moscow State Technical University, which has similar school colors as a tweet from Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer with the Harvard Center for Astrophysics, pointed out.
Eric Berger, a senior space editor at Ars Technica, suggested that the spacesuits even could’ve been brought aboard in secret by the cosmonauts.
Ultimately, whether there is any political motivation behind the suit choice remains unclear. However, many people seem to believe the suit colors are beyond the realm of coincidence. Retired NASA astronaut and former ISS Commander Terry Virts implied his belief that the cosmonauts wore the suits in a show of solidarity with the comment “Well done.”
The cosmonauts join two other Russians, four Americans and a German aboard the ISS. Next month, three NASA astronauts and an Italian will join the crew as well.