August 23, 2001
8:27 PM   Subscribe

Just FYI, it's entirely possible for a human to survive exposure to the vacuum of space for a limited time without any permanent damage -- as long as you expel all the breath from your lungs to avoid an embolism. Horrifying scenes of sudden explosive decompression or immediate freezing are, as far as I can tell, a myth. (In other words, Mission to Mars got it wrong, 2001 got it mostly right. But that's no surprise now, is it?) Link via BadAstronomy. Love that site.
posted by brownpau (15 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Just something to remember if you ever get stuck in an "Event Horizon" airlock situation. ;)
posted by brownpau at 8:29 PM on August 23, 2001

Actually, I remember a scene in Mission to Mars where there were two of them who had to float a short distance in vacuum, and the guy told the girl to exhale.

They survived (that scene).
posted by VeGiTo at 8:39 PM on August 23, 2001

If nothing else you'd get a nice even tan from being exposed to all those kooky light waves/particles.
posted by geoff. at 8:39 PM on August 23, 2001

As I remember, there's an Arthur C. Clarke story about this entitled "The Vacuum Breather's Club" or some such. Clarke goes into rather nice detail about all the various physiological things that happen in this sort of extreme situation, and it leaves you with a new respect for the toughness of a human body.

(I read it long before seeing the movie "Totall Recall" and I couldn't help laughing at the totally overblown decompression scenes where people's eyes literally pop out of their heads.)
posted by Kikkoman at 8:46 PM on August 23, 2001

I'd rather forget that sad excuse of a movie called Mission to Mars altogether.
posted by PWA_BadBoy at 9:23 PM on August 23, 2001

saw that depicted in last year's titan a.e.
posted by elle at 9:30 PM on August 23, 2001

I happen to like that movie Mission to Mars....
posted by graytopia at 9:41 PM on August 23, 2001

Event Horizon? This Event Horizon?

Dear me. I thought that no one else had seen that... Rather, I hoped that no one else had seen that.

A friend and I were looking through the rental listings to figure out what to watch. I saw Event Horizon. I, being a geek, thought, "Hey, it's sci-fi! I like sci-fi!" No, I had never heard of it before.

Alas, what seemed at first to be sci-fi turned into a pointless, disgusting, "shocking," thriller-type-thing. Dimension of Pure Evil, my ass...
posted by whatnotever at 10:15 PM on August 23, 2001

Oh, sorry, off-topic there. Um, yeah... Vacuum sucks. Uh...

Seriously, though, mightn't you get the bends or some such? How would it be different than surfacing from a deep dive too quickly? Hm, I suppose (1-0) atm is much less than ([deep-sea pressure]-1) atm? Ah well, I'm sure I'll get some more info on this if I'm ever in a situation where it might be useful.
posted by whatnotever at 10:20 PM on August 23, 2001

Time to update my Guide:

The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy says that if you hold a lungful of air you can survive in the total vacuum of space for about thirty seconds. However it goes on to say that what with space being the mind boggling size it is the chances of getting picked up by another ship within those thirty seconds are two to the power of two hundred and sixty-seven thousand seven hundred and nine to one against.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 10:23 PM on August 23, 2001

How would it be different than surfacing from a deep dive too quickly?

because it's a limited amount of time. about half a minute says the site.
posted by elle at 11:36 PM on August 23, 2001

I've lived in Florida for like, 10 years, now.

The cold vacuum of space is my bitch. I could do space time standing on my head.
posted by dong_resin at 12:53 AM on August 24, 2001

How would it be different than surfacing from a deep dive too quickly?

The bends is caused by breathing air under pressure, and having that pressurized gas decompress in your bloodstream.

Deep skindivers breathe their air at surface pressure, dive to incredible depths, and then surface again as fast as you please. The bends can't get them. This is more akin to our lucky astronaut.
posted by ewagoner at 7:19 AM on August 24, 2001

I like the NASA bit about the guy whose last conscious memory was the water on his tongue starting to boil...
posted by aramaic at 8:25 AM on August 24, 2001

So if the bends are caused by nitrogen being released from tissue. I would think that a gradual exposure to a vaccum state would be roughly the same as surfacing water (considering that you wouldn't be holding your breath the whole time). For some reason, I can't get that scene from Total Recall out of my head now.
posted by samsara at 8:35 AM on August 24, 2001

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