It appears that three cosmonauts arriving at the International Space Station just made a big statement. As the hatch opened and the new arrivals were greeted warmly by their international colleagues, it was impossible not to notice what Denis Matveyev, Oleg Artemyev, and Sergey Korsakov were wearing. Instead of the standard plain blue Russian uniform, they were decked out in bright yellow suits with blue trim that looked suspiciously like the Ukrainian flag.
It's the first time a Russian space crew has launched since the Ukraine invasion began. The three cosmonauts joined four NASA astronauts, one ESA astronaut, and two Russian cosmonauts on the ISS, and their arrival was streamed by both NASA and Roscosmos, Russia's space agency. Shortly after arrival, the cosmonauts participated in a virtual news conference and their bright yellow uniforms were even more evident against the sober colors of the ISS astronauts.
When asked about the uniforms and their color, Artemyev joked, “It became our turn to pick a color. We had accumulated a lot of yellow material so we needed to use it. That's why we had to wear yellow.” It's an interesting response that evades addressing what the real meaning of the uniform is. In a press release, Roscosmos has flatly denied that there is any political meaning behind the uniforms and that reading anything more into them was an invention of foreign media and bloggers.
Иногда желтый цвет означает просто желтый цвет. Если бандеровские выродки думают, что мы из-за них поменяем наши цветовые вкусы, перекрасим стартовый комплекс Восточного в серо-буро-малиновый, герб МГТУ Баумана в оранжевый (нет, оранжевый тоже не подходит),.. pic.twitter.com/7qFDtu11Dl
— РОГОЗИН (@Rogozin) March 19, 2022
Dmitry Rogozin, the general director of Roscosmos, is a staunch supporter of the invasion and tweeted his own explanation for the bold color choice. According to Rogozin, all three cosmonauts are graduates of the Bauman Moscow State Technical University, and the uniforms were made to honor that, as yellow and blue are the colors of the university crest. He emphatically stated that “sometimes yellow simply means yellow.” However, it is interesting that Artemyev did not give this explanation when asked and sidestepped the question with a joke.
According to the BBC, at least one of the cosmonauts was seen wearing the standard-issue blue uniform prior to taking off. And Eric Berger, who is the Senior Space Editor at Ars Tecnica, points out that the yellow in the Bauman crest is quite different from the bright yellow of the uniforms. Still, he admits that getting the uniforms secretly fabricated and loaded into the shuttle would be quite difficult to do without anyone noticing.
We may never know the full truth about the uniforms, but it's quite a courageous move if these men were making a statement in support of Ukraine given Putin's stifling of anti-war demonstrations and Rogozin's comments that Russia could pull out of the ISS. For now, work is proceeding as planned and the three cosmonauts will be on the ISS for the next six months. In fact, despite Rogozin's threats, NASA has stated that their partners in Russia are continuing to cooperate without incident.