spaceman flies at blue black of Space Station

How Long Could a Human Survive in Space Without a Suit?

Every astronomy enthusiast has surely pondered at some point, what would happen if one ventured into space without that essential piece of gear: the astronaut suit? Without this protective gear, human survival in the cosmic void is bleak.

This reality is grippingly portrayed in popular movies like “Gravity” (directed by Alfonso CuarĂ³n, 2013). These suits supply oxygen, water, physical protection, and the vital pressure needed for short journeys outside a spacecraft.

So, how long could our bodies and minds endure these harsh conditions? The answer is startlingly short: just about ten seconds. As explained by Stefaan de Mey, a senior officer at the European Space Agency (ESA) in a recent Live Science article, one would likely lose consciousness due to oxygen deprivation before even reaching a count of fifteen.

“Our skin wouldn’t be elastic enough to withstand this pressure change.”

You might wonder if holding one’s breath would extend survival time. Sadly, no. The issue isn’t just the lack of breathable air; the oxygen within our bodies would expand, leading to severe and painful organic ruptures. This would be accompanied by a boiling blood process, causing embolisms throughout the body, as de Mey clarifies.

A Literal Explosion:

Body fluids, like saliva and stored urine, would begin to boil, causing the body to swell and expand. “Our skin wouldn’t be elastic enough to withstand this pressure change,” states de Mey. Consequently, we would literally explode, our remnants quickly becoming cosmic debris scattered throughout the universe.

Even if sheltered or exposed to sunlight, you would experience drastic temperature drops of up to -150 degrees Fahrenheit, especially in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). This would lead to severe burns and frostbite.

Simultaneously Frozen and Burned:

That’s not the only threat out there. “Temperature, radiation, and micrometeorites are grave concerns,” de Mey asserts. Space suits are designed for physical protection, not just against atmospheric conditions. Additionally, you’d be highly exposed to solar radiation. The suit safeguards against harmful ultraviolet rays that can cause immediate health issues like cancer, apart from instant severe skin burns. Despite the misconception of emptiness, space isn’t devoid of hazards. Between celestial bodies, there’s ample space, but not between tiny asteroids and space debris from past missions.

These fragments and micrometeorites travel at immense speeds (several tens of kilometers per second, not per hour), posing significant threats to spacecraft, satellites, and astronauts. This danger is tackled by equipping space suits with additional protective layers.

In a nutshell, venturing into space without the proper gear is a perilous idea. The vital functions of the astronaut suit, as highlighted in movies like “Gravity,” provide essential life support and protection against the unpredictable and harsh environment of outer space.