Russia seems to have its hands full as they execute their plan to invade Ukraine, which makes the decision to open a second front and war of words—this time, in space—both surprising and disappointing.
Astronaut and former National Aeronautics and Space Administration lead Scott Kelly pushed back after Russian Space Agency Director General Dmitry Rogozin posted a video seemingly suggesting Russia should leave Americans stranded on the International Space Station (ISS).
The U.S. ended its space shuttle program in 2011. Since then, America has paid Russia to transport astronauts to and from the ISS.
Last week, Rogozin, posted a Twitter video, threatening that Russia could leave American astronauts in space if the U.S. did not reverse their decision to impose sanctions on Russia due to the invasion of Ukraine.
Russian state media attempted to downplay Rogozin’s threat by adding a caption under their presentation of the video, which read:
“The Roscosmos television studio jokingly demonstrated the possibility of Russia withdrawing from the ISS project — the undocking of the Russian segment of the station, without which the American part of the project cannot exist.”
According to The Wall Street Journal, Kelly, who commanded the ISS on three occasions, was “enraged” by the Russian video.
In response, Kelly sent a tweet to Rogozin, in Russian, saying, “without those flags and the foreign exchange they bring in, your space program won’t be worth a damn. Maybe you can find a job at McDonald’s if McDonald’s still exists in Russia.”
Kelly’s tweet drew return fire from Rogozin.
“You are being defiant and destructive,” Rogozin tweeted to Kelly, according to CBS, using a Google translation.
“Perhaps the dementia,” Rogozin continued, “and aggression that you have developed is a consequence of the overload and stress of four flights into space. I invite you to undergo an examination at the Brain Institute of our Federal Medical and Biological Agency.”
Newsmax notes that American astronauts have become the latest “political pawn in Russia’s game of angry words directed at the United States.”.
“I believe in this program, I think it’s important,” said Kelly. “I think we can hold it together. It is one place where Russia and the United States and other countries can work together peacefully. I think it has value in trying to save that.”
Seven people are currently onboard the ISS—two cosmonauts, one astronaut from the European Space Agency, and four from NASA. American Mark Vande Hei’s scheduled transport home in a few weeks seems to be in jeopardy.
The website LiveScience insists that Rogozin’s comment was presented as a joke. However, astronauts near and far are not amused.
In an interview with Newsmax, Kelly said: “It kind of enraged me that the country that we had been in this international partnership for 20 years would take the time to make a video to threaten to leave behind one of the crew members they are responsible for.”
Kelly concluded: “They agreed to be responsible for his safety, getting him to the space station and getting him home. For me, that kind of just crossed the line.”
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