Russian cosmonauts ‘blindsided’ by controversy over arriving at ISS in yellow spacesuits, NASA astronauts says

Vande Hei said cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev and Sergey Korsakov were caught off guard by the controversy over their spacesuits.

“All three were associated with the same university, and I think they were a little bit surprised by that,” he told a news conference.

Vande Hei said he did not shy away from talking about the war with his fellow ISS crew members.

“They weren’t very long discussions, but I asked them how they felt and sometimes I asked direct questions, but our focus was on our mission together.”

Vande Hei landed in Kazakhstan in a Russian Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft on March 30 after spending a record 355 days in space. He returned from the space station with cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov.

geopolitical tensions

His return from the ISS was highly anticipated and drew unprecedented attention due to rising geopolitical tensions fueled by the head of the Russian space agency, Dmitry Rogozin, who made several social media posts directed at the United States.

This included Rogozin retweeting a partially animated video that appeared to threaten that Russian astronauts would abandon Vande Hei in space. Rogozin was also involved in a Twitter feud with retired NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, who held the record for the longest stint in space by an American astronaut until Vande Hei surpassed him.

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei is carried into a medical tent shortly after he and his Roscosmos crewmates Pyotr Dubrov and Anton Shkaplerov landed in their Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft near the city of Zhezkazgan on March 30. 2022 in Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan.

Vande Hei said he found out about his wife’s tweets. “I never perceived those tweets as something to take seriously,” she said, adding that she saw them as directed at a “different audience” besides him.

“I just didn’t spend a lot of emotional energy paying attention to it. I heard about it. I laughed and moved on,” he said.

Russian cosmonauts generate speculation after arriving at the International Space Station with the colors of Ukraine
On Saturday, Rogozin suggested in a series of tweets that Russia might end cooperation with the ISS due to international sanctions against Moscow, saying Russia would prepare “concrete proposals to the leaders of our country” on the possibility of ending the ISS. cooperation on the ISS with space agencies. from the United States, Canada, the European Union and Japan.

NASA said that “the professional relationship between our international partners, astronauts and cosmonauts continues for the safety and mission of all aboard the ISS.”

Other parts of Russia’s space program have been affected by the war in Ukraine. The country’s Mars rover project with the European Space Agency is on hold.
The Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft lands in a remote area near the city of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, with NASA's Mark Vande Hei and Russian cosmonauts Pyotr Dubrov and Anton Shkaplerov on Wednesday, March 30.

Russian crewmates ‘dear friends’

Vande Hei refused to reveal how the Russians on board felt about the Ukraine invasion. “Those are things I’d rather you share directly than me share how you feel about it,” he said.

He said the invasion itself was “heartbreaking, very sad” and felt “helpless” to learn of it while living in space. Vande Hei said that did not change his feelings towards his Russian crewmates.

“They were, are and will continue to be very dear friends of mine. We support each other through everything. And I never had any concerns about my ability to continue working with them.”

Landing after his unprecedented mission, Vande Hei said he was able to walk after about eight hours, although he said he was wobbly.

He said he was also happy to eat some guacamole for the first time in a year and was surprised at how normal it felt to be back on Earth after so much time in space.

“It’s a little disappointing how normal it feels.”

CNN’s Rachel Crane and Ross Levitt contributed to this report.

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