Bill Ingalls/NASA / Handout via Getty Images
Tensions between Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, and its international partners took an unprecedented turn on Monday as American astronauts hurled insults in Russian at Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin on Twitter.
Rogozin has erupted in frequent outbursts in the wake of Western nations imposing sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, even implying that Russia could crash the International Space Station (ISS) into one of its rival nations, which is an idle threat.
In a tweet posted on March 2, he celebrated the removal of flags of partner nations from Russian rockets, proclaiming the vehicles looked “more beautiful” without them, according to a Google translation.
“Dimon,” responded NASA astronaut Scott Kelly on Monday, using a diminutive form of the name Dmitry. “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.”
In a tweet in the same threat, NASA astronaut Garrett Reisman said Rogozin has always been a “fool.” Reisman also referenced Rogozin’s 2014 threat to refuse trips to the International Space Station on Russian rockets, in which the Roscosmos chief infamously said American astronauts would need a trampoline to get to space.
“Now [Rogozin] actually mortally wounds Roscosmos and ends one of the few remaining sources of currency for Russia,” Reisman said in his tweet. “Keep this in mind when your ATM is empty. It will need a trampoline soon.”
Though Rogozin has long been known for bombastic statements, it’s extremely rare to see astronauts so venomously spar with a space official in full view of the public. The online spat is just the latest rupture in a pattern of growing backlash against Roscosmos and its leadership. Rogozin has been attempting to leverage Russia’s power in space wherever possible, including halting sales of Russian engines to American companies and refusing to launch satellites that belong to OneWeb, a company partly owned by the British government, on Russian rockets.
Roscosmos is also making moves to abandon its role on the station after completing its current commitments to reach the year 2024, a possibility that would fundamentally reshape the station’s future. For his part, Rogozin leaned in to the bad blood that’s developing between Roscosmos and its longstanding collaborators by suggesting that Russia will need to develop its own independent human space program in the future.
“Unfortunately, Scott Kelly, known for keeping a python at home and feeding him live mice, is not the only U.S. astronaut who behaves like this,” Rogozin said in response to Kelly’s tweet.
“Hatred of Russia has broken out,” he added. “In a sense, this is useful: Some of our beautiful-hearted colleagues will lose stupid illusions. The bet on the creation of national, Russian-manned systems is now obvious to everyone.”