Space exploration is fascinating, but it’s also absolutely goddamn terrifying. For proof of this, we turn to a recent Popular Science video that explains what happens to the human body when somebody dies in space.
In short, it’s... not great. The video outlines what would happen if an astronaut working on the International Space Station’s suit was punctured by a micrometeorite, positing this as one of the more likely reasons someone would die in the cold, uncaring void. After only 15 seconds, they’d lose consciousness then die of “asphyxiation or decompression” before their body froze. “10 seconds of exposure to the vacuum of space would force the water in their skin and blood to vaporize while their body expanded outward like a balloon,” the narrator says. “Their lungs would collapse and after 30 seconds they would be paralyzed if they weren’t already dead.”
Beyond the facts of death itself, the video also touches on the disconcerting fact that space corpses would have to be stored in an airlock or jettisoned. The body would follow a shuttle’s trajectory, hanging around nearby like a horrifying ghost.
Fortunately, as the video notes, not many people have actually gone to the great beyond in the great beyond of space. Only three people to date have died beyond Earth’s atmosphere. (Far more were killed in rocket accidents.) Cheerily, the narrator says this will likely change as space missions aim to send people to Mars, where “individuals could be stranded or even perish, whether that’s on the way, while living in harsh environments, or at some other point of the mission.”
All of these details seem like motivation enough for humanity to continue our work creating alternative types of astronauts—ones better suited to the dangers of space. Like, say, India’s robot astronaut, Vyommitra, or immortal OT-VIII demigod, Tom Cruise.
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