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  • In space no one can hear you scream. It's  hard to think of a sci-fi movie where at  

  • least one person doesn't end up dying in spaceYou've probably seen bodies instantly freeze,  

  • have an alien erupt out of their  chest, or even explode. However,  

  • this is not what actually happens to a body  that is exposed to the vacuum of space.  

  • And none of these movies ever discuss what  happens to the body after death. Let's use  

  • science to find the truth about what actually  happens to your body if you die in space.

  • Eighteen people have died in space or preparing  to go into space since Yuri Gagarin first left  

  • our planet's atmosphere on April 12, 1961. This  is actually a relatively low number considering  

  • how hostile space is to the human body. But  as we plan to venture beyond our own planet,  

  • and explore the solar system, death in space  is going to become more and more common.

  • As of right now NASA's official statement of what  to do with a dead body if someone dies off planet  

  • is lacking in specifics. In fact, they say: “NASA  does not prepare contingency plans for all remote  

  • risks.” Basically they'll figure it out if it  ever happens. That being said, astronauts do run  

  • scenarios where they need to quarantine a body  from the rest of the crew during space flight.

  • Before we dive into what would happen to a dead  body that was left to endlessly float through  

  • outer space let's clear up some misconceptionsMovies and television shows are made to entertain.  

  • This means the more dramatic, the betterespecially when someone is exposed to the  

  • vacuum of space. So, let's look at the actual  science and see what would actually occur  

  • to someone's body in space. It is pretty  common in sci-fi to see someone instantly  

  • freeze as soon as they are exposed  to space. Would this really happen?

  • The answer is no. When you think about itspace actually doesn't have a temperature.  

  • Temperature is caused by the amount of matter  in an area, and how quickly it is moving.  

  • The faster atoms move, the more heat they  give off, the higher the temperature is.  

  • If there is no matter, like in the vacuum of  space, there can be no temperature. There are  

  • a lot of other things that can kill you, but  you will not instantly turn into a popsicle.

  • Your body is around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit on  average. When exposed to space your body will  

  • still be 98.6 degrees Fahrenhite, however, you  will start to lose some of that heat eventually,  

  • but it is not instantaneous. The reason the loss  of heat is relatively slow is because of the way  

  • heat is transferred. Normally differences between  two systemssuch as your body and the air outside  

  • itallow heat to flow from where it's warmer to  where it's cooler. Since there is very little,  

  • to no matter in outer space, this  transfer of heat can't happen. Therefore,  

  • your body does not instantly lose all of its  heat the moment your skin is exposed to space.

  • However, heat can also be lost, or gainedthrough radiation, and since there is radiation  

  • coming from all stars as well as from the  creation of the universe during the Big Bang,  

  • the transfer of energy through radiation does  occur. For example, if you are directly in the  

  • path of sunlight the radiation from the sun  could actually make you slightly warmer for a  

  • short time. If you are in the shadow of a planet  or other celestial object your body will radiate  

  • heat away from you and into space. The transfer of  heat through radiation is slow, and therefore even  

  • if you are thrown into space without a spacesuityour body will not instantly lose all of its heat.

  • Other space deaths in the cinema depict someone  exploding from extreme changes of pressure. Again,  

  • this would not happen. There is definitely  a change in pressure between the interior of  

  • a ship and space, but that change in pressure  would not result in someone exploding. However,  

  • the lack of pressure would definitely  have negative effects on a human body,  

  • and would cause death after prolonged  periods of time, but not death by explosion.

  • Humans, and all life on the planet, evolved  under Earth's atmospheric pressure. When there  

  • is no pressure pushing on your body, there are  negative consequences. Without Earth's atmospheric  

  • pressure pushing against you, the air inside your  lungs, and in your veins, expands. The expansion  

  • does not have enough force to cause your body to  explode from the inside out, but it could rupture  

  • your lungs unless it is immediately exhaledOftentimes in movies when the protagonist needs  

  • to venture through space without a protective  suit they are told to exhale. This is actually  

  • sound scientific advice to keep your lungs from  rupturing due to the sudden change in pressure.

  • A pressure change can also cause the water in  your blood to convert from a liquid into a gas.  

  • This can cause air bubbles in the blood and  swelling of muscles and tissues, which can result  

  • in an embolism. An embolism is when bubbles in  the bloodstream block the flow of blood to vital  

  • organs such as the brain. This can certainly lead  to death, but cannot cause your body to explode.

  • A final major concern about exposing your body to  the vacuum of space is that there is no oxygen,  

  • which means death is inevitable if you do  not have a space suit on that provides you  

  • with this vital gas. When in the vacuum of space  oxygen literally diffuses out of the bloodstream  

  • and is lost to the outside environment. This leads  to hypoxia, or oxygen deprivation. Within fifteen  

  • seconds of deoxygenated blood reaching the brain  you can go unconscious. Your body could survive  

  • about a minute in an unconscious state from lack  of oxygen, but soon after that you'd be dead.

  • This brings us to the main question. What  happens to the body after someone dies  

  • in space? It is clear that the human body  cannot last long before death occurs, but  

  • once you are dead what happens to your remains? We know that your body would not instantly freeze,  

  • but after a while when the heat has radiated  from your remains you would become a popsicle.  

  • In terms of preservation of a body this actually  is a good thing. On Earth once a living thing  

  • dies it immediately begins to be broken down  by decomposers such as bacteria. However,  

  • in space there is no oxygen or gasses of any kindand therefore, no decomposers can survive to break  

  • you down. If your body is not near a source of  heat such as a star, the body will freeze and stay  

  • that way for eternity, or until you crash into  something and shatter into a million tiny pieces.

  • On the other hand, if your dead, exposed, body  is close to a source of radiation such as a star,  

  • your remains could be cooked. If it is  an intense source of radiation you would  

  • get a really nasty radiation burn. But  then again, you would already be dead,  

  • so it probably wouldn't bother you too much.

  • If you died in a spacesuit however things  would be very different. Say for example you  

  • were struck by a micrometeor. If you were able  to patch the hole in the suit, but then died,  

  • decomposition would actually start to  occur right then. Your exhaled air,  

  • and any oxygen left in the suit, would allow  for decomposers to begin breaking you down.  

  • Also, since your body is contained within the  spacesuit it would take much longer for the heat  

  • to radiate from your body, which would also allow  decomposers to do their work more efficiently.

  • One main difference between decomposition in  a space suit versus decomposition on Earth,  

  • would be the source of the decomposers. On planet  Earth there are decomposers in the environment:  

  • like in the air, soil, water, etc. Howeverin space, the only decomposers are inside  

  • your body. The bacteria that make up your  microbiome would literally decompose you  

  • from the inside out. To be fair, you aren't  using your body anymore if you're dead,  

  • so why not let it serve as food for the  microorganisms living inside of you.

  • The bacteria inside you decompose your  body after you die on Earth as well,  

  • but there are outside decomposers available on  our planet that aren't in space. At some point,  

  • the bacteria would use up the remaining  oxygen in the space suit and then something  

  • really incredible happens. The bacteria  move from aerobic respirationusing  

  • oxygen to generate energy for life  processesto using anaerobic respiration.  

  • Anaerobic respiration does not require any oxygenOne form of anaerobic respiration is fermentation,  

  • so the bacteria in your body would actually  break down your nutrients and create alcohol as  

  • a byproduct. You wouldn't be alive to enjoy  the alcohol, but it's still pretty cool.

  • If there was a source of radiation from a star  like the sun, it would break down your body  

  • pretty quickly if you were directly in its pathThere is also a small amount of radiation from  

  • the remnants of the Big Bang throughout the entire  universe, but it is not very much. The background  

  • radiation would also break down the space suit  eventuallyalthough this could take thousands  

  • of yearsand at that point, any living things  such as bacteria would die with you in space.

  • Hypothetically, if you were close  enough to a source of radiation,  

  • and the space suit broke down while there were  gasses in it from the decomposition of your body,  

  • something really crazy would happen. The  processes of respiration and fermentation  

  • create gasses such as carbon dioxide asbyproduct. This means the bacteria would  

  • be filling the space suit with gas  and increasing the pressure within it  

  • while breaking down your body. If the space suit  was suddenly compromised by a tear or radiation,  

  • the result could be a small explosion. The space  suit would tear apart releasing all of the gasses  

  • at once in a silent explosion; since sound  waves can't be created in the vacuum of space

  • Something that has come up recently as NASA  and other space agencies prepare to launch  

  • manned missions to Mars and beyond is what to  do with the body of an astronaut who has died  

  • on a mission. There is no set plan yet, but it  has been discussed because as humans venture  

  • further and further from the protective shield  of Earth, accidents are bound to happen. People  

  • will die in space at some point, so what would  the other astronauts do with the body itself?

  • On a space station or ship there is air for the  crew to breathe. This means that there is oxygen,  

  • and therefore, decomposition of a dead body will  occur. The body needs to be sealed away somewhere  

  • quickly because it will begin to smell. There is  also the problem of the body being a biohazard.  

  • A bunch of nasty pathogens can be passed on from  one human to another while handling a dead body,  

  • and the longer a corpse is allowed to  decompose, the worse things can get.

  • There are a couple of contingency plans that  have been thought up by space agencies if an  

  • astronaut dies in their spacesuit. It would make  the most sense to keep them in the spacesuit,  

  • and trap the gasses of the dead body withinThe suits themselves are self contained,  

  • and nothing would be able to get in, or  more importantly out. Once the body is  

  • secured it would then be moved to one of the  colder parts of the spacecraft. This might  

  • be near one of the airlocks, but it should  definitely be away from the rest of the crew.

  • Other options of what to do with a dead body  in space could be to send it back to Earth  

  • on a resupply ship. Or jettison the body and  let it burn up in the atmosphere of whatever  

  • the closest planet is. For example, both  Mars and Venus have atmospheres that could  

  • be used as a means of cremating a body on  re-entry if Earth is too far away. However,  

  • if the body needs to be preserved and  returned to a planet so that it can be buried,  

  • there are ways to keep a body along for the  ride without keeping it inside the spaceship.

  • One method of dealing with a dead  body during a long space mission  

  • is to mount it on the outside of the  spacecraft. If kept on the side of the  

  • ship facing away from sunlight, the dead  body would eventually become freeze dried.  

  • Then the crew could choose from a few  different ways of disposing of it.

  • Once the body is frozen it could be released  from the ship and sent on a trajectory to be  

  • incinerated in a nearby star. Or the path chosen  might allow the corpse to float endlessly through  

  • space. If the explorers don't want to litter  space with human debris they could wait until  

  • the body is completely frozen and then  use a robotic arm to smash it into small,  

  • crystallized, pieces. This may seem gruesome, but  it would cause the body to break up into minuscule  

  • fragments, which would eventually burn up in  an atmosphere or be broken down by radiation.

  • Humans are on the verge of venturing out of  near Earth orbit and heading to other planets  

  • and beyond. It is a fact of life that everyone  dies, and as more and more people travel to space,  

  • this natural process will occur beyond  our planet. You won't explode if exposed  

  • to the vacuum of space, but you will  eventually freeze, leaving your body  

  • destined to float around the universe for  eternity, or until you crash into something.

  • Now check outWhat Happens  to Your Body After You Die?”  

  • Or watchWhat Happens To Your Body in a Coma?”

In space no one can hear you scream. It's  hard to think of a sci-fi movie where at  

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What Really Happens to Your Body if You Die in Space

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    Summer posted on 2021/07/30
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