Since 2000, when people first moved into the International Space Station, it has mostly managed to stay out of Earth-bound politics. However, the war in Ukraine might change that.

Sergey Korsakov, Oleg Artemyev, and Denis Matveyev emerged from the Soyuz capsule in mid-March wearing yellow flight suits with blue stripes. Image Credit:

Much Ado About Nothing

Let’s put this whole “colors of the Ukrainian flag” thing to bed right off the bat. Do you really think that cosmonauts, at the beginning of a war, would show up on international television wearing the colors of the enemy to give the middle finger to the Kremlin? No, not if they wanted to be cosmonauts very long.

A more likely reason for this, in my opinion, is that they were wearing the colors of Bauman Moscow State Technical University. A school which all three of them attended. Keen-eyed observers quickly pointed out that cosmonauts had worn yellow suits like this in the past. So it could all be a red, err…yellow herring. The real issues lie elsewhere. The Russian space agency disclaims any connection to Ukraine at all, saying they just had a lot of yellow fabric on the shelves they needed to do something with.

Rocosmos coat of arms.
Rocosmos coat of arms. Image courtesy of Telegram and

We’re not concerned with fashion here today, however. I’ll be looking at the future of the Russian space program and what, if any, effect the war in Ukraine will have on that.

The US and (what is today) Russia have collaborated in space for decades, but this recent military action by Russia raises questions about its potential effects in space.

Space Race

The competition between opposing ideologies fueled the “space race,” which ultimately led to the US landing the first man on the moon in 1969, eight years after the Soviet Union sent the first human into space.

Before long, the competition became a collaboration, with the two superpowers working together. In 1975 the US and Soviet Union came together to work on the first international space partnership, the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. This was a nine-day mission that saw an American Apollo spacecraft with NASA astronauts dock with a Soviet Soyuz craft carrying cosmonauts.

The brief coming together of our two nations opened the door for much larger collaborations, specifically in regards to the International Space Station (ISS) and eventual ride-sharing of US astronauts taxiing trips to the ISS on Russian Soyuz spacecraft. Those trips were by no means free. The Russians keep upping and upping the price to us, and NASA eventually paid $90 million to send astronaut Kate Rubins to the ISS in 2020.