Fmr. astronaut Scott Kelly, Russian space chief squabble in Twitter war

Russia and the US ended cooperation on the International Space Station after the Russian invasion of Ukraine began late last month.

 NASA astronaut Scott Kelly is pictured during a space suit check at the Baikonur cosmodrome March 27, 2015 (photo credit: MAXIM ZMEYEV/REUTERS)
NASA astronaut Scott Kelly is pictured during a space suit check at the Baikonur cosmodrome March 27, 2015
(photo credit: MAXIM ZMEYEV/REUTERS)

Former astronaut Scott Kelly clashed with Dmitry Rogozin, director-general of Russia's space agency Roscosmos, in a Twitter war in recent days, telling him to look for a job at McDonald's as foreign cooperation with Russia was halted amid the country's ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

The exchange seems to have begun when Rogozin tweeted a video showing workers at the Baikonur cosmodrome covering up some flag decals on a rocket carrying OneWeb satellites in response to Western sanctions.

"Dimon, without those flags and the foreign exchange they bring in, your space program won't be worth a damn," tweeted Kelly in response to the video on Sunday. "Maybe you can find a job at McDonald's, if McDonald's still exists in Russia." As of Monday, the fast-food chain was still operating there.

Rogozin dismissed the tweet, referring to Kelly as "cattle" (a seeming play on words as cattle in Russian is Скотом pronounced "skotom") and a brute (Скотов pronounced "skotov") and writing that this shows the "degree of American "gratitude" for what Russia has done for the United States, carrying their astronauts, such as Skotov, for 9 years to the ISS [International Space Station] after American emergency and extremely unreliable ships killed two of their crews and were eventually decommissioned."

 (From L to R) NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Mikhail Kornienko, members of the 43 International Space Station crew, pose during a news conference behind a glass wall at Baikonur cosmodrome March 26, 2015 (credit: MAXIM ZMEYEV/REUTERS) (From L to R) NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Mikhail Kornienko, members of the 43 International Space Station crew, pose during a news conference behind a glass wall at Baikonur cosmodrome March 26, 2015 (credit: MAXIM ZMEYEV/REUTERS)

"We then extended a helping hand to NASA, but now the aggressive Scott has bitten it," the Russian space chief added.

The Twitter exchange didn't end there, however.

On Monday, Kelly shared what he said was a screenshot of a tweet Rogozin had deleted, reading "Get off, you moron! Otherwise, the death of the #ISS will be on your conscience."

"Dimon (a nickname for Dmitry), why did you delete this tweet?" asked Kelly. "Don't want everyone to see what kind of kid you really are?"

Rogozin expressed outrage at the tweet, saying "Mr Scott Kelly!  You needlessly provoke me.  We are not familiar with you, but you address me on you ("ты") and call me "Dimon", although I do not know such a treatment and I will not allow you to behave like that with me.  You are being defiant and destructive."

"Perhaps the dementia and aggression that you have developed is a consequence of the overload and stress of four flights into space," tweeted the Russian space chief. "I invite you to undergo an examination at the Brain Institute of our Federal Medical and Biological Agency."

Rogozin and Roscosmos have made a number of statements since the Russian invasion of Ukraine was launched late last month, including what some have interpreted as implied threats against the ISS.

Last Thursday, the director-general of Roscosmos announced that Russia would be halting the delivery of rocket engines to the US, saying "let them fly into space on their brooms," according to RIA Novosti.

Rogozin added that Russia would be ending cooperation with the US and Germany in experiments on the ISS, saying that the priority of the country's space program would be adjusted to focus on satellites for defense interests.

On Saturday, RIA Novosti's Telegram channel posted a video showing the Russian module of the ISS being undocked from the space station. The message accompanying the video said that it was made "jokingly" by Roscosmos and that the existence of the American part of the ISS would be impossible without the Russian module.

On February 24, Rogozin rejected sanctions announced by US President Joe Biden, asking rhetorically if Biden wants to "manage the ISS" himself.

The Russian space chief stressed that the correction of the ISS's orbit and its avoidance of dangerous space debris is carried out by the engines of the Russia's Progress MS cargo ships. "If you block cooperation with us, who will save the ISS from an uncontrolled deorbit and fall into the territory of the United States or Europe?" he tweeted.

"There is also the option of dropping a 500-ton structure to India and China. Do you want to threaten them with such a prospect? The ISS does not fly over Russia, so all the risks are yours. Are you ready for them?" wrote Rogozin.

"Gentlemen, when planning sanctions, check those who generate them for Alzheimer's disease. Just in case. To prevent your sanctions from falling on your head. And not only in a figurative sense."