How many of you have thought about being inside a star cruiser engaged in an interstellar dogfight with space pirates or maybe some nasty aliens, when all of the sudden, HULL BREACH?!?
The cold merciless nothingness that is the vacuum of space approaches, and it’s only a matter of time before it washes over you. Probably just a few milliseconds in fact. But what exactly will happen to your tender, pink little bottom when you get sucked out into the endless infinite – raise your hand if you’ve ever wondered that! Well, I reread that last sentence right now, and just looked over and saw my own hand was raised, so clearly I need to write this post at least for myself if for no one else. Someday Space Ensign, your grandchildren will thank me.
Maybe you’re not even worried. Maybe you think your ship’s woven plasteel spidersilk armor is too thick, or your forward deflector shield batteries are far too powerful. Maybe your ship is equipped with a ton of extra spacesuits or lifepods. Maybe a hull breach has never once happened before in the history of the United Space Exploration and Domination Federation, and you think the odds of it actually happening to YOU are infinitesimally low. Oh really? Go ask a survivor of The Challenger explosion how big of a shield that sentiment will create when it really starts to hit the fan
Also you’re dreadfully out of touch because this shit happens all the time, and hit the fan it will.
(I couldn’t find an image of General Grievous being sucked out the window)
Haha, but all eye-popping aside, haven’t you ever wondered what would really happen?
For you sleuths, here’s the “real deal” link that I am basically summarizing:
For my regular audience I’ll sum that up into the relevant categories, without all that messy accurate ‘science’ getting in the way of our fun.
So, back to my scenario. You’re on the bridge inputting coordinates minding your own businesses, when all of the sudden you hear a horrifying metallic crunch, followed by the bloodcurdling screams of your crewmates, followed immediately by a deafening WHOOOOOOOSHHHHH that seems to somehow get louder while simultaneously silencing everything else in the room. There’s an intact spacesuit hanging on the wall five feet behind you, and you have seconds left. Let’s examine what possibilities you have to look forward to!
1. How much time do you have to repent for an entire lifetime of sin?
Very little you wicked man, very very little. Once the vacuum hits you, which is almost instantly, the best estimates place the number of seconds you have left at somewhere between 5 and 12. After that, your body essentially shuts down and you pass out. Whether or not you get 5, 8, or a dozen seconds to say the five million Hail Mary’s that would actually be required to cleanse your soul depends on a variety of factors.
2. What’s a Hail Mary? What can extend my lifespan by even a single second? I’d like ALL the seconds please.
There are some simple things you can do to help to gain a few extra moments of regret. If you’re moving, standing, or actively doing anything, your time decreases to around eight seconds. Getting all excited like a rookie and having an adrenaline rush will shorten it even more. Just mellow out, duuuude! Sitting calmly in your seat and not exerting yourself as the vacuum pleasantly rolls over you will net you maybe three or four extra seconds before you pass out, probably forever. Use them wisely; that’s maybe enough time to give your C.O. an emphatic middle finger right before he explodes.
3. Wait, will we actually explode?
Maybe! Well to be honest no, not in the traditional sense. That would be kind of cool though, to go out with a bang like a meat marshmallow in a microwave, but sadly our bodies just don’t react that way in a vacuum. However, if you try to get cute and hold your breath, you’ll probably get the pleasure of experiencing what’s referred to as ‘explosive decompression’. This is when your lungs rupture internally due to the pressure differential of the gas in your lungs trying to work itself out faster than your puny lung tissue can accommodate. For this reason, it’s probably in your best interests to not be anywhere close to me during a hull breach in deep space. I plan on immediately and forcibly emptying all the gas that’s inside of me – as quickly and as thoroughly as I can. And I do mean all of the gas; if there was ever a time where it’s permissible to ‘lose the gamble’, this is it.
4. “Lose the gamble”…do you mean fart so hard that you shit yourself?
5. If I pass out, what would happen to my body? Would it freeze solid?
Nope. It would essentially remain unchanged, forever and ever, so pick your last expression wisely.
6. Wait a minute, how do you know any of this?
Because of mad, or at least what I assume to be very angry scientists. A few people have actually been exposed to vacuums or near-vacuums before, and they were all crazy bastards. There are basically two types of exposure; full-body and partial body.
As with all types of exposure, full-body is much more serious, haha. If you pass out in a vacuum (5-12 seconds), you can probably last about a minute in your passed out state, but after that you can’t be revived. So like, if someone pulls your gasless floating body into a lifepod or something and repressurizes it in under a minute, you’ve got a fighting chance of waking up to someone’s mouth over yours. Over 90 seconds though, and float on buddy, float on.
6b. Partial body
Partial exposure actually isn’t half as bad as I thought it would be, but I’ll admit I based this on the end of Alien Resurrection.
So, let’s say you got to your suit on time and you’re all sealed up when you get broadsided by those plasma torpedoes. Unfortunately, the idiot standing next to you didn’t come to the party prepared, and uses his 5 seconds to claw at your suit like a jackass. Shit, he’s ripped a seam and now your suit is losing pressure!
It’s actually not the end of your world, if the hole is small enough. There’s even a decent chance you can simply plug it up with your own skin! I’d always thought that this would cause your entire body to be sucked through a hole that’s the size of a dime, (again, Alien Resurrection), but it seems like it doesn’t work that way. Your skin will plug the hole. It will probably hurt a little. That section of your skin will bleed out into space a little bit, but your actual blood will end up sealing the hole. This has happened in real life, but that time the hole was 1/8 inch large. I’m guessing that if it’s larger, like two or three inches, you might actually end up watching pieces of yourself spray out into space for a few seconds while you get to make a wish. It’s like you’re an inverse pinata but filled with organs instead of mini snickers. Boooo.
Still want to go to space? Of course you don’t. But now at least you can call bullshit on when people’s heads explode in the movies because they get caught in a vacuum.