Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine has repercussions that are visible from space, astronauts recently noted.
European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer, who returned to Earth from the International Space Station last month, said he could watch the unfolding war from an orbital laboratory about 250 miles (400 kilometers) high. The invasion began on Feb. 24, about halfway through her six-month mission.
“When you’re in space, you feel so far away at first,” the German astronaut said on ARD’s “Morgenmagazin” program, according to a Wednesday (May 25) translation. (will open in a new tab) at Newsweek. “At the beginning of the war, the whole country was plunged into darkness at night.”
Related: Russian invasion of Ukraine on satellite imagery
Real-time updates: the impact of the invasion of Ukraine on space exploration
Maurer said it’s hard to recognize Ukraine’s main landmarks other than Kyiv, the country’s capital. But the war “was clearly visible to the naked eye from space” and sometimes “events were clearly recognizable,” Maurer added. For example, he noted that he could see “huge puffs of smoke over cities like Mariupol.”
Russian forces hit Mariupol, a strategically important port city on Ukraine’s southern coast, hard from the start of the invasion. The keeper said (will open in a new tab) May 17 that the city is “in ruins” and pointed to signs of increased Russian control in the region, such as the evacuation of Ukrainian soldiers from a steel mill that served as the last redoubt.
(Image credit: satellite image © 2022 Maxar Technologies)
Maurer did not say whether war in space was discussed with his Russian teammates. NASA stressed that the International Space Station’s multinational partnership, led by Russia and the United States, remains intact with no major disruptions. However, many other Russian space partnerships fell apart due to the invasion.
NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hey landed safely in Kazakhstan on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft on March 30, despite persistent rumors that his return home would be thwarted by the conflict. (He shared a car with two astronauts.)
“I never had any concerns about how I would be treated in the Russian space program. To be honest, our interaction, our partnership with the Russians was one of the reasons we were able to fund the space program,” Vande Hay told the Washington Post. (will open in a new tab) Tuesday (May 24).
“Because people who don’t care about space exploration, some of those people care a lot about international relations. And so the fact that something was happening with the space program that allowed us to expand international cooperation, made our cooperation with the Russians or the Soviet Union then, which was very important during the Cold War, ”he added.
(Image credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)
Vande Hei detailed the relationships he forged with his teammates, highlighting that he spent almost a year (355 days) in space with cosmonaut Pyotr Dubrov and that the Russian colleagues he knew from his years at NASA “would be very very close friends.” .”
He also said that he spoke to them about Ukraine and how sad he was about it. “I don’t want to tell you what their answers were. But, you know, they’re human, and the sources of information we use to form our opinions have a lot of influence.”
Vande Hey admitted that his own worldview was colored by his military service before he became an astronaut (he held numerous leadership positions). (will open in a new tab) in the army in the early 1990s as the Cold War cools down). But he added that since then he has been the co-pilot of a Russian spacecraft (Soyuz MS-06 in 2017-18) and had many opportunities to work with the Russians while preparing for his missions.
(Image credit: NASA TV)
And there are blind spots in American culture, Vande Hey said. For example, he said that while watching action movies with his teammates in space on a previous mission, he realized that “all the bad guys were Russians.”
He added that the astronauts on board during that mission told him, “It’s a little scary when we see that everyone in the United States, the media in the United States, portrays Russians as bad guys.”
Vande Hey said that people tend to “categorize people as ‘other'” and stressed the importance of interaction between people from different social groups.
“Honestly, this also applies to politics in the United States,” Vande Hey said.
Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace (will open in a new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (will open in a new tab) and on facebook (will open in a new tab).