Alexander Gerst, a German astronaut aboard the space station, allegedly threatened to kick his member of the crew in the butt eight years ago. Reid Wiseman, an American astronaut, owned the butt in question, and thankfully, just a proxy would be used to kick it. The United States and Germany were poised to square off in the World Cup on June 26, 2014.
In a news release titled “Friendly Rivalry Pits the U.S. vs. German Astronauts on Space Station,” NASA disclosed Gerst’s friendly remark (“I hope we kick their butt a little bit”). For the record, Gerst achieved his wish as Germany won the game 1-0, and everyone on the station got along just fine. No, not at all in 2022. Even while tensions between Washington and Moscow linger, NASA and the Russian space agency Roscosmos have been careful to emphasize that work will continue on board the station in a collegial manner even since Russia’s conflict in Ukraine began in February.
In a statement earlier this year, NASA assistant administrator Kathy Leuders stated, “Obviously, we realize the worldwide situation. But these teams are working together as a single unit. At the very least, they were. The three Russian cosmonauts on board the station posed for photos holding the flags of the purportedly liberated Luhansk People’s Republic and Donetsk People’s Republic, two regions in eastern Ukraine that Russia has seized and, according to the Kremlin, liberated. Yesterday, this politeness broke down. NASA was not having it.
In an email to reporters, NASA expressed its “strong condemnation” of Russia for using the International Space Station to further its war against Ukraine. According to NASA, this is fundamentally at odds with the station’s core goal, which is to promote research and technology for peaceful uses among the 15 international participating nations.
Those were fighting words, to use the diplomatic jargon of the space station. “The Outer Space Treaty” was signed by the United States, Russia, and other countries 55 years ago.
A subsequent 1998 agreement clarified further guidelines for appropriate conduct especially on board the International Space Station. The agreement obliged member governments to avoid militarizing space. The type of symbolic, finger-in-eye gesture performed this week by the Russians was not prohibited under any pact, but it had also never occurred before.
On July 8, European Space Agency Administrator Josef Aschbacher tweeted, “It is unacceptable if the ISS becomes a stage to play out the political or humanitarian situations unfolding on the ground.” The ISS’s mission is to conduct research and get us ready for further exploration. It must continue to stand for inspiration and harmony.
That is the extent of the controversy at this time. For now, there is no news on how this situation is playing out among the crew members. Crew discretion means that there will likely be no comment on this.
However, for the time being, the Luhansk and Donetsk flags have been stowed away, and business as normal has continued on the enormous circling platform. The good news is that. The bad news is that beleaguered Ukraine’s killing fields, 400 kilometers (248 miles) below, are still in operation. The performance art piece by the Russian cosmonauts has ended. The battle in Russia is still going on.