A trio of Russian cosmonauts arrived Friday at the International Space Station wearing bright yellow flight suits trimmed with blue, raising questions about whether the three were showing solidarity with Ukraine by wearing its national colors and rebuking their own government’s invasion.
While it is possible that the suits are a sign of solidarity with Ukraine, there are also other possible explanations.
Some have speculated the three may have instead been paying homage to Bauman Moscow State Technical University, which they all attended and which has blue and yellow among its school colors.
The head of Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, posted pictures on Telegram of media coverage speculating the cosmonauts were supporting Ukraine, and said, “Here some bandit cowards and their Anglo-Saxon sponsors don’t know what else to come up with in their information war against Russia.” He added that the crew were not representing Ukraine but wearing colors from their alma mater: Bauman Moscow State Technical University.
“Sometimes the color yellow is just the color yellow. The flight suits of the new crew were designed to match the colors of the emblem of Bauman Moscow State Technical University, from where all three cosmonauts graduated. The design of the uniforms was coordinated long before the current events. Seeing the Ukrainian flag everywhere and in everything is just a clinic [in propaganda],” another Roscosmos official wrote in his Telegram channel “Closed Space.”
Cosmonauts typically pick their flight suits months in advance, which would predate Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But it’s unclear when the cosmonauts selected this yellow and blue color scheme.
“For Soyuz flights, typically the crew meets with the company that makes the suits months before flight and they are allowed two custom suits,” a NASA astronaut who has flown on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft to the ISS told CNN. “Typically, one suit is the same across the crew, and the second suit is something personal.”
“I think it would be a real challenge to make and launch these (flight suits) last minute. Not impossible though,” a former NASA astronaut who has also flown on a Soyuz spacecraft to the ISS said.
When the three cosmonauts arrived at the space station Friday, they spoke to callers on the phone, one of whom asked about the yellow color. Commander Oleg Artemyev responded jokingly, “We actually had a lot of yellow material, so we had to use it. So that’s why we had to wear yellow.”
Veteran former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, who has been a staunch critic of Russia’s invasion, noted the uniforms in a tweet, written in Russian and English: “Three Russian cosmonauts who have just docked at the International Space Station have arrived in Ukrainian yellow!”
Cosmonauts Artemyev, Denis Matveev and Sergey Korsakov will spend the next six and a half months aboard the space station.
When the hatch opened at 5:48 p.m. ET Friday, the three were welcomed aboard the ISS by two other Russian cosmonauts, four NASA astronauts, and one European Space Agency astronaut. The crew were all smiles and embraced one another after the new arrivals floated through the hatch in their bright yellow suits.
CNN’s Ashley Strickland contributed to this report.