Like the vast expanse of space, the fate of an astronaut’s corpse is unexplored territory. To date, no individual has died of natural causes in space. Were 18 deaths by astronauts, but all were caused by a space disaster.
The bodies were recovered on Earth in various states. But we don’t know what would happen if an astronaut had a sudden heart attack or an accident during a spacewalk.
Before we talk about what would happen to a space corpse, let’s present what we suspect might happen if the death took place in a place without gravity and without atmospheric pressure.
Here is a hypothetical situation. An astronaut, let’s call him Dr. Lisa, is outside the space station, trying to do a routine repair. Suddenly, Lisa’s suit is hit by a small meteorite, tearing a considerable part of her suit.
Unlike what is possible to have seen or read in SFs, Lisa’s eyes won’t come out of her skull and she won’t break into an explosion of blood and ice. Nothing so dramatic.
How long does an astronaut survive if his suit breaks?
But Lisa will have to act fast, because she will lose consciousness in 9 to 11 seconds. Basically, he has 10 seconds to return to a pressurized environment. But such a rapid decompression will most likely cause a shock. Death will occur before she knows what is happening.
Most of the conditions that will kill Lisa come from the lack of air pressure in space. The human body is used to functioning under the weight of the Earth’s atmosphere, which binds us all the time like a blanket the size of a planet. As soon as the pressure disappears, the gases in Lisa’s body will begin to expand the liquids will turn into gas. The water in her muscles will turn into vapors, which will accumulate under Lisa’s skin, the areas of her body reaching twice their normal size.
Lack of pressure will also cause the nitrogen in her blood to form gas bubbles, causing her enormous pain. When Lisa goes out in 9 to 11 seconds, it will bring her relief. She will continue to float, not knowing what is happening.
As we go through a minute and a half, Lisa’s heart rate and blood pressure will drop to the point where her blood can start to boil. The pressure inside and outside her lungs will be so different that her lungs will be ruptured and bleed. Without immediate help, Dr. Lisa will suffocate and we will have a space corpse. At least, that’s what studies in pressure chambers say.
The crew pulls Lisa back inside, but it’s too late to save her. RIP Dr. Lisa. Now, what should be done with her body?
Space programs like NASA have thought about this inevitable situation, although they will not talk about it publicly. So, should Lisa’s body return to Earth or not? Here’s what would happen, depending on what the crew decides.
Yes, I’m bringing Lisa’s body back to Earth. Decomposition can be slowed to low temperatures, so if Lisa returns to Earth, she needs to keep her as cold as possible.
On the International Space Station, astronauts keep garbage and food waste in the coldest part of the station. This puts brakes on the bacteria that cause degradation, which reduces food rot and helps astronauts avoid unpleasant odors. So maybe Lisa would stay here until a ship returns her to Earth. Keeping the fallen space hero Dr. Lisa near the trash is not the most dignified move, but the station has limited space, and the trash area already has a cooling system, so it makes logistic sense to store it there.
What happens if an astronaut dies of a heart attack on a long trip to Mars?
In 2005, NASA partnered with a small Swedish company called Promise to a design prototype for a system to process and store space corpses. The prototype was called Body Back. They bring the body back to Earth, but they are not intact.
If Lisa’s crew has a Body Back system on board, here’s how it works. Her body was allegedly placed in a watertight GoreTex bag and placed in the ship’s airlock. In the blockage, the temperature of the space (-270 degrees Celsius) would freeze Lisa’s body. After about an hour, the pieces would be dehydrated, leaving about 50 kilograms of dry powder. In theory, you could store Lisa in her powder form for years before bringing her to Earth and presenting her to her family, just as you would with an urn of cremated remains.
Should Lisa stay floating in space?
Who says an astronaut’s body must return to Earth? people I pay already $ 12,000 or more to have tiny, symbolic portions of their cremated remains or DNA launched into Earth’s orbit, the moon’s surface or deep space. Some would even like to have the chance to float their whole dead body through space.
After all, burial at sea has always been a respectful way to rest sailors and explorers, thrown into the waves. We continue the practice today, despite advances in refrigeration and preservation technology on board.
The space seems vast and uncontrolled. We like to imagine that Dr. Lisa will enter emptiness forever, but it would most likely follow only the same orbit as the ship. Space would turn it into a form of spatial garbage. Although the United Nations has regulations against throwing into space.
The gravity of a planet may attract Lisa. If this happens, Lisa would receive a “free” incineration in the atmosphere. The friction of the atmospheric gas would heat his body tissues, incinerating it.
Who knows, if Lisa’s body was sent into space in a small, self-propelled boat like an escape capsule, which then left our solar system, traveled on the empty expanse to an exoplanet, survived its descent through any atmosphere. … Thus, Lisa’s microbes and bacterial spores may exist there and open to impact, which could create life on a new planet. How do we know that the alien Lisa wasn’t the way life began on Earth, right? Perhaps the “primordial element” from which the first living creatures of the Earth arose was only the decomposition of Lisa? Yes, this is not the case, but the above solutions are still valid.