Outer Space Exposure

In scores of science fiction stories, hapless adventurers find themselves unwittingly introduced to the vacuum of space without proper protection. There is often an alarming cacophony of screams and gasps as the increasingly bloated humans writhe and spasm. Their exposed veins and eyeballs soon bulge in what is clearly a disagreeable manner. The ill-fated adventurers rapidly swell like over-inflated balloons, ultimately bursting in a gruesome spray of blood.

As is true with many subjects, this representation in popular culture does not reflect the reality of exposure to outer space. Ever since humanity first began to probe outside of our protective atmosphere, a number of live organisms have been exposed to vacuum, both deliberately and otherwise. By combining these experiences with our knowledge of outer space, scientists have a pretty clear idea of what would happen if an unprotected human slipped into the cold, airless void.

In the 1960s, as technology was bringing the prospect of manned spaceflight into reality, engineers recognized the importance of determining the amount of time astronauts would have to react to integrity breaches such as a damaged spacecraft or punctured space-suits. To that end, NASA constructed an assortment of large altitude chambers to mimic the hostile environments found at varying distances above the Earth, accounting for factors such as air pressure, temperature, and radiation. Adventurous volunteers were subjected to simulations of the conditions found several miles up, and a handful of animal tests were conducted with even lower pressures.



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Posted: January 21st, 2011
at 2:33pm by Koookiecrumbles

Categories: space

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