Three Russian cosmonauts arrived smoothly at the International Space Station last night in flight suits made in the yellow and blue of the Ukrainian flag, in what looks suspiciously like an act of support for Ukraine. The smoothness of their re-entry to Earth in six months time as, at this stage, far from guaranteed.
Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev and Sergey Korsakov blasted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for their prolonged stay aboard the orbiting laboratory yesterday, joining the crew of two Russians, four Americans and one German.
The daring new arrivals emerged from their Soyuz capsule after docking with the space station wearing bright yellow jumpsuits with blue flashes, instead of the standard-issue blue uniform.
On the flight out space crew ditch their special pressure suits and helmets, designed for take off, and change into something more comfortable into on route. These are usually packed aboard the spacecraft weeks before lift off.
The colour scheme and its dramatic divergence from usual dress codes drew gasps from Nasa officials and members of Nasa’s astronaut corps. “Wow. Just wow,” said Terry Virts, a former US commander of the ISS.
“There was a a lot of yellow material accumulated at the warehouse when the flight suits were made,” joked Commander Artemyev (in Russian), at the live-streamed conference.
The cosmonauts are trading places with Pyotr Dubrov and Anton Shkaplerov, who are due to return to Earth on a Soyuz on March 30, along with the American astronaut Mark Vande Hei, who set a record yesterday for the longest stretch of time anyone has spent in space, covering 355 days.
Nasa said that it was satisfied of the Russian space agency’s commitment to Vande Hei’s safety, despite veiled suggestions by Dmitry Rogozin, its erratic Russian chief, that they may leave him behind on the ISS.
Rogozin has been an apologist for President Putin’s war on Ukraine in recent days and has engaged in spats with US astronauts on Twitter, calling one a “moron” for his statements against the war.
With apologies to David Bowie’s 1972 classic, Space Oddity.
This is Ground Control to Major Tom
You’ve really made the grade
And the papers want to know whose uniforms you wear
Now it’s time to leave the capsule if you dare.