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what would you die of, if you were just floating in space?

i've seen this in a few movies (2001: a space odyssey; event horizon, sunshine) where the astronout gets disconnected from their ship. i've always wondered what would happen to them? in 2001..., the guy seems to die very quickly, but of what? in sunshine, the guy freezes almost immediately.

how long would you live and what would you eventually die of?

24 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favourite answer

    When the human body is suddenly exposed to the vacuum of space, a number of injuries begin to occur immediately. Though they are relatively minor at first, they accumulate rapidly into a life-threatening combination. The first effect is the expansion of gases within the lungs and digestive tract due to the reduction of external pressure. A victim of explosive decompression greatly increases their chances of survival simply by exhaling within the first few seconds, otherwise death is likely to occur once the lungs rupture and spill bubbles of air into the circulatory system. Such a life-saving exhalation might be due to a shout of surprise, though it would naturally go unheard where there is no air to carry it.

    In the absence of atmospheric pressure water will spontaneously convert into vapor, which would cause the moisture in a victim's mouth and eyes to quickly boil away. The same effect would cause water in the muscles and soft tissues of the body to evaporate, prompting some parts of the body to swell to twice their usual size after a few moments. This bloating may result in some superficial bruising due to broken capillaries, but it would not be sufficient to break the skin.

    Within seconds the reduced pressure would cause the nitrogen which is dissolved in the blood to form gaseous bubbles, a painful condition known to divers as "the bends." Direct exposure to the sun's ultraviolet radiation would also cause a severe sunburn to any unprotected skin. Heat does not transfer out of the body very rapidly in the absence of a medium such as air or water, so freezing to death is not an immediate risk in outer space despite the extreme cold.

    For about ten full seconds– a long time to be loitering in space without protection– an average human would be rather uncomfortable, but they would still have their wits about them. Depending on the nature of the decompression, this may give a victim sufficient time to take measures to save their own life. But this period of "useful consciousness" would wane as the effects of brain asphyxiation begin to set in. In the absence of air pressure the gas exchange of the lungs works in reverse, dumping oxygen out of the blood and accelerating the oxygen-starved state known as hypoxia. After about ten seconds a victim will experience loss of vision and impaired judgement, and the cooling effect of evaporation will lower the temperature in the victim's mouth and nose to near-freezing. Unconsciousness and convulsions would follow several seconds later, and a blue discoloration of the skin called cyanosis would become evident.

    At this point the victim would be floating in a blue, bloated, unresponsive stupor, but their brain would remain undamaged and their heart would continue to beat. If pressurized oxygen is administered within about one and a half minutes, a person in such a state is likely make a complete recovery with only minor injuries, though the hypoxia-induced blindness may not pass for some time. Without intervention in those first ninety seconds, the blood pressure would fall sufficiently that the blood itself would begin to boil, and the heart would stop beating. There are no recorded instances of successful resuscitation beyond that threshold.

  • Anonymous
    5 years ago

    No. Space is a vacuum. The bacteria that is part of decomposition would not be able to survive in that environment. And space is quite cold and would preserve a body quite well, aside from the instant frostbite and blood vessel ruptures that would occur if an unprotected human body were exposed to the cold and lack of pressure. Even in a space suit, eventually all the oxygen and heat would run out and dissipate. A good Hollywood depiction what happens when human flesh is exposed to space was in Mission To Mars when Tim Robbins' character removed his helmet while in orbital space of Mars.

  • 1 decade ago

    it depends on the circumstances. are you wearing a spacesuite? is it all ready pressurized and has some oxygen? if so, then you could live for maybe a couple of hours... if everything is hooked up and ready to go. if you are not wearing a space suit, then you die in less than .7 of a second. you see, the human body has high pressure, and space has no pressure whatsoerver. as a result of this pressure change, the person would explode almost immedatly until the forces are balanced. if you have a pressurized spacesuit on, but no oxygen, then the primary question is- "how long can you hold your breath?" due to the change in gravity, you aren't going to be able to hold it for very long, even though your spacesuit is pressurized. if you have none of these things then your screwed. upon being exposed to outerspace, you'd die instantly due to the very very cold temperatures, close to that of absolute 0. your blood imediatly freezes as well as all of your internal organs, and organ systems. then a couple micrseconds later, you explode due to the pressure change. you'll end up burning up in the earth's atmosphere if you are close enough to earth.

    so basically if your don't have a way to get back to your spaceship, i'm sorry to say, your screwed!

  • Anonymous
    6 years ago

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    what would you die of, if you were just floating in space?

    i've seen this in a few movies (2001: a space odyssey; event horizon, sunshine) where the astronout gets disconnected from their ship. i've always wondered what would happen to them? in 2001..., the guy seems to die very quickly, but of what? in sunshine, the guy freezes almost...

    Source(s): die floating space:
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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago


    lack of oxygen

    are correct

    but you would not live long enough

    as space is a vacume without a suit you would instantly be spread out over a very large area

    in a suit the oxygen would run out

    heat would stop and you would drift away and would not be able to change direction

    you would live a while but die soon

    without a suit you would die instantly

  • 1 decade ago

    Not entirely sure but my science teacher said you would explode instantly because gravity on earth keeps the atoms together in your body and in space there is no gravity so you atoms just break apart. Well that's what he said. I would say something like freezing because there is no atmosphere to keep heat in, or asphyxiation because there is no air and the vacum would suck out the air in your lungs.

    In a space suit i would say lack of oxygen.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Without a space suit, you'd die instantly. Any air in your lungs would explode outwards, as would the contents of your eyeballs, etc. In Siberia, if people fall into an ice-hole, they die more or less the instant that they get out of the water - that's at -50C. In space, at approx -270C, the result would be slightly quicker...

  • 1 decade ago

    In space your space suit is about 300 deg. F. in the shadow it is about nouns 250. If U get dumped into space U will run out of air in about 2 hours. If U start a slow spin your suit will equalize the temp very well.

  • 1 decade ago

    Theres a lot of debate on this but they estimate you will be alive for a short time, your blood will boil out of your body and all fluids would boil out, this is due to the low pressure of space. Areas rich in moisture such as eyes etc would suffer worst.

    The estimations for many years are that you would survive 15 seconds due to this being the average time it would take a body to use the remaining oxygen left in your blood.

    Holding your breath wouldn't help, due to the pressure difference the air in your lungs would expand rapidly and also force air bubbles to be created in your blood or what was left of it.

    The effect apparently is related to the Bends that divers experience when surfacing too quickly from deep dives.

    The pressure difference causes similar effects and divers are taught not to hold their breath as they surface to reduce the effects of air expanding in their lungs etc.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Boredom :0

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