A NASA astronaut who recently returned to Earth after a long stay onboard the ISS has suggested that tensions have been growing onboard the research station between Russian cosmonauts and US astronauts. While Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sours relations between NATO countries and the Kremlin, the ISS has largely been free from conflict, with some bizarre exceptions.
NASA and Roscosmos crew members even appeared to be friendly with each other, when last month NASA astronaut Thomas Marshburn handed over the metaphorical (and ceremonial) keys to the ISS to Russian cosmonauts, as they descended back to Earth.
Mr Marshburn said during a webcast: “I think the lasting legacy of the space station is very likely to be international cooperation and a place of peace.
Meanwhile, cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev responded in English saying: “Thank you for the key, and thank you for the friendship.”
However, it appears that things weren’t always as cordial on the research station, according to astronaut Mark Vande Hei.
Mr Vande Hei recently returned from the ISS after spending a record 355 days onboard the orbital outpost and spoke to the Washington Post about his experience.
The astronaut noted that at some point, he would “poke holes” in the cosmonauts’ “logic,” suggesting that spacemen from both countries would sometimes disagree on certain issues.
However, he also admitted that he was forced to acknowledge American culture’s misrepresentation of Russian people, particularly in cinema.
These moments particularly came during the weekly movie night onboard the ISS, where astronauts from both camps would sit together to enjoy movies.
However, Hollywood stereotypes about Russians made the ritual awkward.
Mr Vande Hei said: “I realized at one point that all the bad guys were Russians.
“It kind of gives me chills even thinking about it because at one point, I looked at my cosmonaut crewmates and said, ‘How does that make you feel?’
“And they said, ‘It’s kind of scary when we see that everybody in the United States, the mass media in the United States, is portraying Russians as the bad guys.’”
He added that the crew adapted to these difficulties by adopting a strategy in which “everybody got a turn to pick a movie they’d seen and wanted to share with everybody else.”
The NASA astronaut also noted that the movie nights were on a “previous flight,” which suggests that NASA and Roscosmos space voyagers are no longer watching movies together.
Mr Vande was previously at the centre of US-Russia tensions in space after a Russian official threatened to abandon him in space.
In a terrifying video posted to social media, Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Roscosmos, cast doubt over the astronaut’s safety.
However, Roscosmos later backtracked, assuring NASA that they would uphold their promise and let the astronaut leave on board the Russian spacecraft.