Why would you want to light a fire in space you might ask? Rarely is it ever intentional, but it does happen, so when you’re planning on sending intrepid astronauts on a six-month or longer journey to Mars you need to prepare for the worst. That’s why NASA has just ignited relatively large fire on the unmanned Cygnus spacecraft to see what actually happens when you let naked flame loose in microgravity.
The Spacecraft Fire Experiment (Saffire) is conducted in three parts, the first of which sparked into action yesterday by burning samples of cotton-fibreglass in a 1m by 1.3m box, a big step up from the largest previous experiment, which was only the size of a business card. It will then orbit the Earth for eight days sending high resolution images back to base, before the Cygnus runs its own little flammability experiment by burning up when it re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere.
You can follow updates from the mission on Twitter, and if you want to know a little more about the mission check out the video below: