It sounds like something out of Cold War-era science fiction: A dispute between Russia and the U.S. is having extraterrestrial repercussions.
Astronauts above the International Space Station rely on food resupply runs from the Earth they're orbiting, but ever since the Western nations imposed sanctions on Russia — over the crisis in Ukraine — and Russia retaliated by banning certain Western food imports, some few items haven't been able to reach the astronauts, the Moscow Times reported.
"Astronauts' families have the opportunity to send some gifts to the ISS," European Space Agency astronaut-support engineer Romain Charles told the Times. "Because these gifts can't come back to Earth, they generally choose to send some food, such as candies, dried fruit, etc., that the astronaut likes."
Russian Soyuz spacecraft, currently the only manned vehicles traveling to the ISS, often carry the gifts.
"This is where the Russian food import ban had some impact," Charles said.
The Soyuz TMA-14M rocket launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for the International Space Station on Friday, Sept. 26, 2014 carrying NASA astronaut Barry Wilmore and Russians Alexander Samokutyaev and Elena Serova. Serova will become the fourth Russian woman to fly in space and the first Russian woman to live and work on the station. AP Photo/NASA, Aubrey Gemignani
Since Russia has banned imports of meat, fish, cheese, dairy, fruit and vegetables from the Western nations that supported anti-Russian sanctions, it's possible that the six astronauts aboard the ISS — one German, two Americans and three Russians — could be deprived of certain foodstuffs.
Members of expedition to the International Space Station Russian cosmonaut Alexander Samokutyaev (C), Russian cosmonaut Elena Serova (R) and NASA astronaut Barry Wilmore (L) are seen during farewell ceremony as they get up into the spacecraft Soyuz TMA 14 M before the launch at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, September 26, 2014. Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
But there's more than a glimmer of hope, Charles noted, as NASA, using American commercial cargo vehicles including SpaceX's Dragon and Orbital Sciences' Cygnus resupply vehicles, can still supply the ISS directly, bypassing Russian territory.
"The ESA [space food] prepared by the chefs does not go to the ISS aboard [Russian] Progress and Soyuz vehicles," Charles said, confirming that the lone European astronaut aboard the ISS eats courtesy of private American companies' rockets.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying a Dragon supply ship lifts off from the launch pad on a resupply mission to the International Space Station, on September 21, 2014 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The private spaceflight rocket is delivering a cargo capsule to the International Space Station. Joe Raedle/Getty Images
The sanctions against Russia are having more of an impact on the ground than they are in space, with Russian officials looking to import alternates meats — including ostriches, buffalo and crocodiles from Asia — to replace lost American chicken and pork imports.
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