Former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly giving back Russian spaceflight medal

Scott Kelly, shown here in the cupola of the International Space Station, completed a yearlong mission in March 2016.
Scott Kelly, shown here in the cupola of the International Space Station, completed a yearlong mission in March 2016. (Image credit: NASA)

Scott Kelly has found another way to protest Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

The former NASA astronaut has been a vocal opponent of the invasion, expressing his displeasure with Russian aggression frequently via Twitter, and in Russian to boot. (All astronauts who visit the International Space Station must speak English and Russian, and Kelly has three trips to the orbiting lab under his belt.)

Some of Kelly's ire has been directed at the Russian federal space agency Roscosmos and its chief, Dmitry Rogozin, who responded with insults of his own and ultimately blocked Kelly on Twitter.

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Kelly's words have clout, and not just because they're in Russian. The astronaut flew aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft on two of his trips to the space station, for example, and completed a yearlong mission aboard the orbiting lab with Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko from March 2015 to March 2016. 

Such feats earned Kelly a Russian spaceflight medal — but he doesn't want it anymore.

"Mr. Medvedev, I am returning to you the Russian medal 'For Merit in Space Exploration,' which you presented to me," Kelly tweeted on Wednesday (in Russian; translation provided by Google). "Please give it to a Russian mother whose son died in this unjust war. I will mail the medal to the Russian embassy in Washington. Good luck." 

He was addressing Dmitry Medvedev, who currently serves as deputy chairman of Russia's security council and was the nation's president from 2008 to 2012 and its prime minister from 2012 to 2020. Kelly's tweet was a reply to one that Medvedev issued on Tuesday (March 8), which was International Women's Day.

"Happy Holidays, dear women! Love, happiness and health!" Medvedev wrote (in Russian), as a sort of caption to a 105-second video that he posted that day.

Mike Wall is the author of "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or on Facebook.  

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.