Saturday, January 15, 2011

Body in vacuum

Has it been tested what happens to a mammal in space vacuum? How long can it survive and what happens if it stays? The scary cliche is that it "explodes", but that seems unlikely.

Update:
Thanks to Bert.
And Kaner referred to this article.

8 comments:

Bert said...

Sad truth is that all liquids instantly start boiling in a vacuum. A mammal might not explode, but we are made of 90%+ liquids... Fragile structures like the lung membranes are destroyed in seconds, so hold your breath as long as you can!

Also, in the case of space, there is a heat problem that is nearly as critical: if you are in the shade, you will rapidly freeze solid, while being exposed to the naked sun will greatly accelerate the boiling process, to say the least.

eolake said...

Wow. Thanks, man.

I read an old Heinlein story where somebody hit a piece of exposed film outside a window on the moon. He stood the vacuum for the couple of seconds it too. (And he had to take it inside before the sun rose and ruined it, I seem to recall. Not sure why starlight wouldn't do it.)

eolake said...

Boil in vacuum... I had no idea.

kaner said...

here you go:

http://io9.com/5709637/what-would-really-happen-if-you-were-exposed-to-vacuum

Pat McGee said...

I like to cite substantial authoritative support for things like this, but right now I can't remember where I've heard these things. I think it's mostly small comments in more modern SF stories and fact articles.

According to some, Heinlein's view is somewhat outdated. Yes, uncovered liquids will boil instantly, but skin is pretty tough which changes the equation dramatically.

Forget trying to hold your breath - the pressure from the air in your lungs and the gas in your digestive system will pretty quickly force all of both out of your body, taking solid and liquid contents with it.

Keep your eyes closed. The tears and liquid will boil and freeze pretty quickly.

Given all that, I think the modern consensus is that exposures of less than around 30 seconds probably won't be fatal. Much more than that probably would be. You'd likely have both short-term and long-term effects - frostbite, maybe reduced lung capacity, blindness if you tried to open your eyes, who knows what else?

Tommy said...

Gee folks, this certainly seems like a sort of bad way to go. I think personally, I'd rather just fall asleep and never wake up.

Thoughts like what Pat said "Forget trying to hold your breath - the pressure from the air in your lungs and the gas in your digestive system will pretty quickly force all of both out of your body, taking solid and liquid contents with it" sort of don't seem all that inviting a proposition. :-(

Another cheery one from Bert really sounds great "all liquids instantly start boiling". :-(

I think I'll go back to bed :-)

eolake said...

It's lucky that very few people have to work in vacuum! :-)

Tommy said...

"It's lucky that very few people have to work in vacuum! :-)"

Of course this doesn't mean that I don't feel like I'm in a vacuum at times...