What happens if a fire breaks out in space? Astronauts will find out!

Fire behaves differently in space. And a series of new experiments may be able to tell us more about how to do this.

Meanwhile, plans to return to the moon and take down the next man and first woman are becoming more solid. But it doesn’t stop there. The major global space agencies have been toying with the ambitious idea of ​​actually colonizing the Moon – and the Red Planet for that matter – for some time now. The plan is to build a real lunar base within the next few decades. But how do you make it fireproof? A series of new experiments should provide more clarity on this topic.

fire in space
It is well known how fire behaves on earth. But fire behaves completely differently in space, where there are different gravitational forces and air currents. It also makes it more difficult to put out the fire. “On Earth, gravity has a huge impact on flames,” explains researcher Paul Vercole. “But in the microgravity of space, fire can behave unpredictably and be much more dangerous.” In fact, we do not yet know how fire spreads in space and on other celestial bodies. So the question is how should engineers design fireproof homes on the moon, where only 12 people walked. And how do you do it on Mars, where no one has been until now?

Minimum risk
These are urgent questions that, according to NASA, must be answered as quickly as possible. “Now that NASA has plans to build bases on the Moon and Mars, we need to be able to live there with minimal risk,” Vercole said. “It is therefore essential for the safety of future astronauts to understand how flames propagate in space and how materials burn in different environments.”

Moon base
By the way, it will take some time before the first module belonging to the lunar base appears on the Moon. NASA is currently working hard on the Lunar Gateway: a space station around the Moon that will be permanently occupied by astronauts. Extensive research will be conducted from the space station to our natural satellite. In addition, the station will serve as a way station to other places in the solar system and will serve as a springboard for future missions to Mars.

The US space agency will investigate the matter soon. through Solid fuel ignition and extinction (SoFIE); A series of experiments launched during the resupply mission to the International Space Station of the US defense, aerospace company Northrop Grumman.

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experiments
In total, five different experiments will be conducted by the astronauts in a separate, secure room on the International Space Station. The goal is to study the flammability of plexiglass, cotton fabrics and other materials commonly used during spaceflight, among other things. Microgravity on the International Space Station allows scientists to properly investigate what exactly happens when an unexpected fire breaks out in space, isolated and unaltered by Earth’s gravity.

Several years ago, NASA burned a synthetic resin on the space station. The top row shows the flame increasing, while the bottom row shows it fading. Photo: NASA

In short, through experiments, NASA hopes to better understand how fire behaves in space. This is very important. Based on this, the agency can once again better choose materials for designing spacesuits, cabins, and other living environments. In addition, experiments can help determine the best way to extinguish a fire or combustion of materials.

NASA doesn’t go through with experiments overnight. Because the SoFIE project will certainly run until November 2025. “It will provide an important basis for the continued human exploitation of space,” said study researcher Lauren Brown.

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