“Black smoke and a smell of burning” in the ISS according to Thomas Pesquet

A disaster awakening for the astronauts, when a fire was reported in the Russian part of the station.

As the International Space Station sleeps quietly, at 4 a.m. Moscow time, a smoke detector sounds in the Russian sector. The crew was then woken up urgently and in the words of French astronaut Thomas Pesquet, they noticed black smoke within the station as well as a smell of “burnt plastic”. The kind of thing you don’t like to see 400 kilometers above Earth, in a capsule stuffed with oxygen and therefore highly flammable.

So a few hours after the fact what do we know about this mysterious start of fire?

According to the Russian space agency Roscosmos, the safety of astronauts has never been endangered by this possible fire. The latter would have taken in the Zvezda service module, which is part of the Russian wing of the station. However, Moscow assures us that everything is under control. The station does not suffer from any danger and an air filter has been used to prevent any possibility of pollution within the rest of the ISS.

Wanting to minimize the event as much as possible, the Russian agency has decided to leave its two cosmonauts at work today, they who must make a spacewalk this Thursday afternoon to finish docking the brand new Russian module Nauka.

The Russian sector: the heart of the problem

This kind of problem does not happen often in the ISS, but coincidence or not, they occur in the vast majority of cases in the Russian sector of the station. This part, older than the rest, is in very poor condition. According to a report by the Russian agency itself, 80% of the devices present are “at the end of their life”. Faced with the problem of the aging of its equipment, Russia intends to provide several answers, such as fleeing the station. Roscosmos does not in fact plan to do major work in the ISS, which is already working with China to build a new station, and why not a base on the Moon in the coming years.

Abandoned by Moscow, the ISS project could well be abandoned by Russia once and for all. The question remains: if Russia leaves the ship, who will take care of the maintenance of this part of the ISS? On the western side we plan to use the station at least until 2024, but a departure of a historical player like Russia could accelerate the fall of the station, both literally and figuratively.

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