Jerry Linenger dons a mask during his mission on Mir in 1997. Credit: NASA


Outside view of the Mir space station. Credit: NASA


 

Fire! How the Mir Incident Changed Space Station Safety

by ELIZABETH HOWELL on FEBRUARY 25, 2013

Sixteen years ago, a fire on the Russian space station Mir erupted after a cosmonaut routinely ignited a perchlorate canister that produced oxygen to supplement the space station’s air supply. Jerry Linenger, an American astronaut aboard Mir at that time, wrote about the incident that occurred on February 24, 1997 in his memoir Off the Planet:

As the fire spewed with angry intensity, sparks – resembling an entire box of sparklers ignited simultaneously – extended a foot or so beyond the flame’s furthest edge. Beyond the sparks, I saw what appeared to be melting wax splattering on the bulkhead opposite the blaze. But it was not melting max. It was molten metal. The fire was so hot that it was melting metal.

Linenger famously had some trouble donning gas masks, which kept malfunctioning, but he and the rest of the crew managed to put out the blaze before it spun out of control. The cause was traced to a fault in the canister.

Mir itself was deorbited in 2001, but the fire safety lessons are still vivid in everyone’s mind today.

Read more: Fire! How the Mir Incident Changed Space Station Safety — Universe Today.

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