Russian cosmonauts board space station wearing yellow and blue flight suits

Reason why Russian cosmonauts wore flight suits in same colours of Ukraine flag is unclear

Three Russian astronauts launched to the International Space Station early on Friday.

A few hours later, their Soyuz spacecraft docked at the space station and, when they boarded the orbiting outpost, they were wearing flight suits of striking colours - yellow and blue, similar to the colours of Ukraine’s flag.

The Russian astronauts did not say anything that would suggest that their clothing was a political statement. Yet it seemed difficult to believe it was happenstance.

The outfits worn by astronauts in orbit on a daily basis tend to be subdued. But recent crews from Russia have worn vibrant flight suits of various colours during their arrival, including Yulia Peresild, an actor who arrived on the station in November in a bold red coverall.


Eric Berger, a space reporter at the website Ars Technica, said the flight suits are usually prepared and packed months in advance but that substitutes could have been added among the last items to be loaded on the spacecraft.

Berger wrote on Twitter: "I still haven't found anyone who really knows why the Russian cosmonauts wore yellow flight suits (with Ukraine blue highlights) to board the ISS. However, this is a revealing answer from the mission commander. Just wild if they smuggled these suits on board."

Berger was referencing this tweet from Katya Pavlushchenko: "They were asked about the colour of the suits, and Oleg answered, there was too much yellow fabric accumulated in the warehouse. Except that, just usual greetings and best wishes."

Jonathan McDowell, a scientist at the Harvard Center for Astrophysics who closely follows space missions, suggested the colours might actually be those of Bauman Moscow State Technical University, which all three of the astronauts - Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev and Sergey Korsakov - attended. An official from the university spoke as a guest on the Russian livestream of the launch Friday.

Berger, however, noted that the colours of the flight suit more closely matched those of the Ukrainian flag. Russia’s space program and some of its partners and customers have been collateral damage of the war in Ukraine and the sanctions that have followed.

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

Dmitry Rogozin, head of Russia's space agency, Roscosmos, has responded with a series of provocative messages on Twitter, including retweeting a parody video that suggested Russia would leave behind Mark Vande Hei, a Nasa astronaut who is scheduled to return to Earth in a Russian Soyuz later this month.

Mr Rogozin feuded publicly with Scott Kelly, a retired astronaut who held the record for consecutive days in space by an American until Mr Vande Hei passed it recently.

In public statements, Nasa officials have ignored Mr Rogozin's statements and insisted that operations are continuing as usual with their Russian counterparts. They said that there had been no change in plans for Mr Vande Hei's return. A pair of crews will fly SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft to the station in the coming month - one a private crew of tourists with the company Axiom, the other a mix of Nasa and ESA astronauts. - This article originally appeared in The New York Times