With all the new tourists flying up into the edge of space lately, do you ever wonder what would happen to your body in space if you were not wearing a space suit? Live Science has an interesting article explaining it.
In the absence of pressure, liquid water in our bodies would boil — changing immediately from a liquid to a gas. “In essence, all of your body tissues that contain water will start to expand,” he said.
Some humans have actually been exposed to near-vacuums and survived to tell the tale. In 1966, an aerospace engineer at NASA, Jim LeBlanc, was helping to test the performance of spacesuit prototypes in a massive vacuum chamber. At some point in the test, the hose feeding pressurized air into his suit was disconnected. “As I stumbled backwards, I could feel the saliva on my tongue starting to bubble just before I went unconscious, and that’s kind of the last thing I remember,” he recalled in the 2008 “Moon Machines” documentary series episode “The Space Suit.”
The formation of gas bubbles in bodily fluids, known as an ebullism, also occurs in deep-water scuba divers who surface too quickly because they go from an underwater environment of high pressure to low pressure at the water’s surface. For suit-less astronauts, the blood flowing through the veins boils less quickly than water in the tissues because the circulatory system has its own internal pressure, but massive ebullism in the body’s tissues would result rapidly. A 2013 review in the journal Aerospace Medicine and Human Performance that looked at previous exposures to vacuums in animals and humans found that they lost consciousness within 10 seconds. Some of them then lost control of their bladders and bowel systems, and the swelling in their muscles constricted blood flow to their hearts and brains, as their expanded muscles acted as a vapor lock.
“No human can survive this — death is likely in less than two minutes,” Lehnhardt said.