Outer space is a vacuum with no breathable air or pressure. The temperature is either boiling or freezing, depending on if you’re facing the sun or not. Huge amounts of deadly ultraviolet radiation stream from stars.
So if you somehow found yourself free floating outside a space station or space shuttle (think George Clooney in “Gravity”), but without a spacesuit (think Gamora in “Guardians of the Galaxy”), you are, without a doubt, screwed.
If you got sucked out of a space shuttle that was barreling through outer space and you weren’t wearing a spacesuit, you’d instantly feel all the air rush out of your lungs. There’s no pressure in space, so air expands and would painfully tear through the tissue of your lungs as this happened. So in the event that you are sucked out of a space ship or pushed out of an airlock without a spacesuit, it’s a better idea to exhale has much as possible, rather than take one final gulp of air.
In an extreme environment like space, it would only take about 15 seconds for your body to use up all the oxygen in your blood. The second that deoxygenated blood reached your brain, you’d pass out.
2. Loss of bowel control
You lose control of some bodily functions with such severe lack of oxygen. Researchers conducted an experiment in 1965 where 100 dogs were put in a vacuum-like environment. The researchers found that not only were the dogs’ lungs drained of air, their bowels evacuated immediately. So yes, you’d probably poop your pants.
3. Boiling blood
The lower the pressure, the lower a liquid’s boiling point is. That’s why water boils much faster at the top of a mountain than it does at the bottom.
In space, there is no pressure. So the boiling point could easily drop to your body temperature. That means your saliva would boil off your tongue and the liquids in your blood would start to boil.
4. Blocked circulation and exploding capillaries
All that bubbly boiling blood could block blood flow to vital organs. That in itself could kill you. And if the bubbles pass through your heart, it could cause a heart attack.
The bubbling would also probably burst some capillaries, so you could find yourself covered in splotchy bruises.
If the liquid in your blood stream started boiling, it would turn into gas that would make your skin swell. NASA makes it clear that your body wouldn’t explode and your eyes wouldn’t pop out of your head like many science fiction movies suggest. However, you would swell up and get really painfully puffy.
Even while you’re floating there unconscious and puffy, your troubles aren’t over. If you end up facing the sun when you get sucked out of your spaceship, then you’ll probably be drifting through temperatures around 250 degrees Fahrenheit. That means an instant sunburn.
7. Cell mutation
You’d also be bombarded with radiation from other stars besides the sun. Harmful UV light, gamma rays, and x-rays can warp your cells. The radiation dose would not give you superpowers. If you survived long enough for someone to pull you back on board, you could still die later from radiation poisoning or cancer.
If you’re not drifting in front of the sun, it’s probably around minus 440 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade. That doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily freeze to death, though, according to NASA.
Heat has to radiate through something. Even while drifting through space, your muscles would still generate heat. That heat would not have anywhere to escape into if you’re surrounded by the vacuum of space. So freezing should be pretty far down on your list of concerns.
There’s still hope that you could survive all of this.
Scientists also exposed chimps to near vacuum conditions in 1965. They found that the chimps recovered with no signs of cognitive damage even after spending 3.5 minutes in the vacuum. However, one chimp did have a heart attack and one died after just three minutes.
Ultimately, you’d most likely die of asphyxiation. But the consensus seems to be that if you’re rescued within 60 seconds, you might survive.
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