In spite of worldwide tensions, Russia launches new crew to the ISS arriving in perfectly timed flight suit colors

Last week, Russia launched the newest three crew members to the ISS on top of its Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. While it probably wasn’t planned to be this way, the flight suit colors of yellow and blue were perfectly timed.

On March 18, MS-21 carried three Russian cosmonauts to the space station. An entirely Russian crew to the ISS is a first for the country, as ever since its creation an international astronaut has always hitched a ride.

It’s a coincidence that Russia’s first all-Russian ISS crew flight falls during the time of great divide in world politics. MS-21 originally was going to be a “seat-swap” mission where a NASA astronaut would fly to the ISS on a Soyuz in exchange for a Roscosmos cosmonaut flying on SpaceX’s Dragon. Negotiations between the two agencies have been ongoing for some time now but have been repeatedly delayed. However, NASA expects a deal to be signed before the next round of crew flights this fall.

The three crew members of MS-21, Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev, and Sergey Korsakov, arrived at the station later that day and were welcomed by their fellow Russian, American, and German crew members – a short-lived show that things may be normal between the agencies.

MS-21 crew members arrival suits spark questions

Something that most likely was also coincidental was the colors of the cosmonaut’s flight suits. The suits sported bright yellow with blue accents, resembling Ukraine’s flag. Soon after they were first seen on Roscosmos coverage, many began to speculate if the astronauts were making a statement against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

When asked about the suit colors, Artemyev jokingly stated they “had accumulated a lot of yellow fabric, so we needed to use it up.” Meanwhile, Roscosmos answered in a statement, “sometimes yellow is just yellow.” At the same time, the agency’s head Dimitry Rogozin said it had to do with the cosmonaut’s shared alma mater, Bauman Moscow State Technical University.

We will probably never know the honest answer. However, this isn’t the first time the yellow and blue flight suit design has been used. Artemyev wore this same design during his first flight to the station in 2014.

Cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev during Soyuz mission TMA-12M in 2014. Credit: Roscosmos

It’s important to note that while Rogozin has continued to make wild statements about what he might want Roscosmos to do, the agency itself has continued to work with NASA and its partners. What Russia’s war in Ukraine might bring to the spaceflight industry during its aftermath is unknown, but the partnership goes on for now.

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