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A message to Ukraine? Cosmonauts wear yellow and blue flight suits for trip to space station

Cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev and Sergey Korsakov float aboard the International Space Station after arriving on a Soyuz spacecraft on March 18, 2022. The trio donned bright yellow and blue flight suits as they joined seven other crewmates on the station.
Cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev and Sergey Korsakov float aboard the International Space Station after arriving on a Soyuz spacecraft on March 18, 2022. The trio donned bright yellow and blue flight suits as they joined seven other crewmates on the station. (Image credit: Roscosmos TV)

The fashion choices of three cosmonauts who just arrived at the International Space Station are raising some eyebrows.

A Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev and Sergey Korsakov docked with the orbiting lab's new Prichal module today (March 18) at 3:12 p.m. EDT (1912 GMT). About 2.5 hours later, the hatches between the two vehicles opened, and the three newcomers floated aboard the station to greet their seven crewmates.

Everything went according to plan, but the hatch opening was still surprising, because it revealed that Artemyev, Matveev and Korsakov were wearing bright yellow flight suits with blue highlights — the colors of Ukraine. 

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Artemyev, the Soyuz commander, was asked about the colors during a hatch-opening ceremony webcast by Russia's federal space agency Roscosmos. He responded (in Russian) that there was a surplus of yellow fabric in the warehouse, according to space exploration enthusiast Katya Pavlushchenko, who posted a Twitter thread about the exchange (opens in new tab).

Not everybody's buying this answer, however. Some folks with knowledge of spaceflight procedures seem to think it could be a show of support for Ukraine, which Russia invaded on Feb. 24.

"Three Russian cosmonauts who just docked with the ISS arrive in Ukrainian yellow!" former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, who flew a yearlong mission on the space station with cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko from March 2015 to March 2016, tweeted today (opens in new tab), in both Russian and English.

"Wow. Just wow. Well done. За экипаж!" tweeted Terry Virts (opens in new tab), another former NASA astronaut. He spent six months aboard the station from November 2014 to June 2015 and traveled to and from the orbiting lab in a Soyuz. ("экипаж" is Russian for "crew," according to Google Translate.)

There are other possible explanations for the flight suits as well. For example, multiple people on Twitter have pointed out that the colors are close to those of Bauman Moscow State Technical University (opens in new tab), which Artemyev, Matveev and Korsakov all attended.

This is all just speculation; all we have to go on at the moment is Artemyev's cryptic response during the hatch-opening ceremony. Hopefully one of the cosmonauts will offer some more details in the not-too-distant future.

None of the three newly arrived cosmonauts hails from Ukraine, by the way. Artemyev was born in present-day Latvia, Matveev is from St. Petersburg and Korsakov was born in what is now Kyrgyzstan.

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

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with Space.com (opens in new tab) 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.