As joke videos go, it wasn’t very funny. Set to a bouncy Russian pop tune, the 57-second clip posted to Telegram on March 5 showed International Space Station cosmonauts hugging an American astronaut goodbye, climbing into the Russian segment of the ISS, undocking, and flying away, as Russian ground controllers gave a standing ovation.
What lent the ostensibly lighthearted clip a darker feel was the identity of the organization that made it—Roscosmos, Russia’s equivalent of NASA—and what the video implied would happen next. With the Russian portion of the station detached, the ISS would have no thrusters to maintain its orbit. The whole thing would be doomed to plunge to Earth. With a wink and a smile, Russia was suggesting it might kill the orbital outpost.