This Is What Happens To You In The Vacuum of Space (It's Gross)

This Is What Happens To You In The Vacuum of Space (It's Gross)

People often wonder how much sci-fi movies are true to life.

If I get sucked off into space, will my head explode?

Will my eyes be sucked from their sockets?

Will I disintegrate and float away like the dust from a Dyson?

Let's find out what's true and what's completely bogus with a little story about a bloke called Colonel Joe Kittinger of the U.S. Air Force.

Joe was a sky-diving enthusiast who broke the then world record for highest dive at 100,000 feet (or 30km straight up) back in 1959.

At this height, you can imagine the air is pretty thin.



Even though the atmosphere dissipates over time and there's no real threshold for where Earth's atmosphere ends, the Kármán line is the generally accepted altitude where space begins at a whopping 100km.

Joe rode a balloon and jumped from just 30% of that height or 1.3% of sea level pressure. Problem was Joe had a small leak in his glove that reduced pressure in that part of the limb...

Rather than make the months and years of preparation a waste, Joe jumps and immediately feels the effects of just 98.3% of space vacuum.

The entire 90-minute ride up to 100,000 ft, Joe knew something was wrong and kept the leak to himself. 

Then the 12-minute wait for safety checks at altitude and then the four-minute dive. 

Joe's hand swelled to a grotesque size more than double the size like a bunch of bananas and was horrifically discoloured from the body's inability to circulate blood that pooled in his hand. 

He was in agonising pain.

He lost the use of the hand and some of the lower arm. 

Luckily, the rest of his body being pressurised took some of the brunt of the low pressure and Kittinger returned to Earth relatively fine and very much alive. 



Again, this is just a cautionary tale of what starts  to happen in close to the vacuum of space.

Some things to note:

  1. The 98.7% vacuum pressure is a lot, but that extra 1.3% compounds and - like all percentages - the full 100% is drastically more intense than 98.7%.
  2. The isolated limb and the circulation of the rest of his body negated some of the nastier effects to the limb and kept some blood flow going. 
  3. The slow ascent was terrible for his hand but the complete depressurisation wasn't felt all at once. 

So, what if these factors were non-existent and someone was dropped into the vacuum of space with no suit...

No slow ascent...

AND their entire body exposed?


Before we get to the answer!

Gotta let you know that everyday Aussies are taking up the cause and spreading ARSE in our Australian Space Society. Learning, loving and flaunting their space gear (Free shipping!!) is what we do.

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Here's what happens to the human body in space...


Total Recall actually kinda nailed it!

The vacuum of space will violently rip the air from your lungs.

Not through your mouth, through the fastest possible route which will rupture your lungs causing them to explode like a hot water bottle filled with too much air. 

Like Hittinger's hand, the loss in pressure will expand the oxygen in your blood causing your entire body to expand. 

You will be about twice your normal size, but you won't explode as our skin is elastic enough to stretch in unison until we are a human Michelin man. 

Any liquids readily exposed will vaporise and boil. Your tongue, your eyes and without air on your lungs you can't feed oxygen to your brain.

Meaning you'll feel everything before you begin to pass out from asphyxiation in about 15 seconds.

About a minute to 90 seconds you'll slip away and die *sad face*.

Then you'll freeze completely solid over approximately 12-26 hours for a really long time.

Maybe forever...

Or maybe you'll crash land on a strange planet?

If you're near a star you'll eventually be pulled in by its gravity and burnt to a crisp before you're anywhere near its surface. 

If not?

Gut bacteria will start eating you from the inside out...

Here's a pic of Joe Kittinger hours after the dive with his hand returning to normal, yet still the size of his head.

Which sci-fi movies got it right?
Which got it ridiculously wrong?

Let us know in comments and share with a friend.
That's how we're spreading ARSE and thrusting Australia into the deep unknown...


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