ISS experiment looks like a Star Wars lightsaber
Monday, December 22, 2014, 11:07 AM - Hey...those jets of flame in the image above remind you of anything?
Probably they wouldn't until a couple of months ago, when the first trailer for Star Wars: Episode VII hit YouTube.
Fans had a mixed (and very vocal) reaction to a brief shot of a hooded figure brandishing a red lightsaber with a crossguard, and NASA apparently thought it resembled one of the cooler experiments aboard the International Space Station.
Sadly, NASA hasn't invented a lightsaber in secret (although we can think of no better use for taxpayer money). The shot from the ISS is of NASA's zero-gravity Flame Extinguishment Experiment -2 (or FLEX-2).
It's designed to study the way fuel burns in space, along with how fast, how soot forms, and how different mixtures of fuels react to being ignited (check out the mission page here).
Without gravity, fire clusters in balls around droplets of fuel, about the size of an olive according to NASA.
Though mesmerizing, any fire risk at all is a deathly hazard aboard a space station (evacuating isn't exactly easy). FLEX-2's data will hopefully lead to new ways to improve fire safety up there.
Here's how the experiment works: