Last Friday, the new crew of cosmonauts from Russia reached the International Space Station, which continues to be safely in orbit despite threats from Dmitry Rogozin, the head of the Russian Space Agency, Roscosmos. The first images from orbit had many perplexed, surprised, and even hopeful. The three cosmonauts were not wearing the standard blue suits, instead, they donned yellow and blue suits.
The color scheme is similar to the Ukraine flag and that was enough to send people across the internet into bold declarations that the cosmonauts were showing messages of solidarity with Ukraine, which Russia began to invade almost a month ago. But others were not convinced that this was a message. Or if it was, it was probably not one in support of Ukraine.
When it comes to space travel, things are checked and checked again. Even if cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveyev, and Sergey Korsakov had wanted to make a gesture, it is extremely unlikely that they would have been able to do so. They would have been caught before.
Roscosmos claimed there was no special meaning to the yellow and blue suits before confirming that their color is unrelated to the violent war that Russia is waging in Ukraine.
"The flight suits of the new crew are made in the colours of the emblem of the Bauman Moscow State Technical University, which all three cosmonauts graduated from ... To see the Ukrainian flag everywhere and in everything is crazy."
This reason was also confirmed by Rogozin in a tweet.
Yet, Artemyev initially gave a different answer. As reported by the Guardian, he said that they simply had a lot of yellow fabric in storage and that’s why they had chosen it.
March 18, the day the cosmonauts arrived at the ISS, is the anniversary of the Russian invasion and annexation of Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula, in 2014. Some have suggested that maybe the Russian government expected to have conquered Ukraine by this point and the blue and yellow suit with the Russian flag on top would have been a message in celebration of the victory.
Whatever the intentions and message, space has become a crucial place to push messages related to the Russian invasion. NASA and the European Space Agency tried to appear neutral in the beginning, while Rogozin, incensed by the sanctions put on Russia, threatened the end of the ISS and claimed Russia would let it crash down to Earth.