Astronauts have to be prepared for every possibility—but particularly for the possibilities of emergency in space, where they can rely only on themselves to fix potentially fatal problems. So what happens if a fire breaks out while on a mission? There is no fire department to call in space, so how to astronauts fight fires in the challenges of zero gravity?
You might be surprised to know that there are no fire extinguishers on board.
A fire is particularly nightmarish in space because fire fuels itself by burning through oxygen—of which astronauts have but a limited supply.
The stakes are high, so astronauts run practice simulations before they ever leave the planet.
In this video, we watch a simulation run by European Space Agency Andreas Mogenson and Russian cosmonaut Sergei Volkov. They use a replica of a Soyuz rocket to run through a fire drill—complete with black smoke filling the cabin with terrifying realism.
The astronauts explain that their protocol is to immediately close their spacesuit helmets to avoid breathing in smoke.
The astronauts then have three options:
- Shut of oxygen to starve the fire
- Shut down electronics to prevent fire spreading
- Depressurize the craft by opening the ship up to space.
When the fire has been extinguished the crew has only 125 minutes to get back to Earth, or risk dying from heat exhaustion.
Watch the video above to see the simulation.