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Anonymous asked in Science & MathematicsAstronomy & Space · 7 years ago

In the 1981 movie "Outland", starring Sean Connery.................?

In the 1981 movie "Outland", starring Sean Connery, there is a scene where a construction worker in space gets a hole in his suit. As the air leaks out, and his body is exposed to a vacuum, we watch in horror through his faceplate as he swells, and explodes.

A somewhat similar scene is in the 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, "Total Recall." In that movie, Schwarzenegger leaves the pressurized habitat of a Mars colony and begins to blow up like a balloon in the much lower pressure of the Mars atmosphere. He is saved by the creation of an entirely new atmosphere by an ancient alien machine.

The question is, what happens to the human body in a vacuum?

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  • 7 years ago
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    So... first off - you don't explode. There's just not enough internal pressure inside the human body for that to happen.

    First off, once you open the faceplate, all the air from the suit - and your lungs - is pulled out into space. (or, into the atmosphere of Mars - which is so low, you might as well be in space...) In the zero-pressure environment, the gases in your blood begin to boil; you'll have red, frothy blood coming from your nose & mouth, you eyes will swell (but not explode), and you'll feel what divers get - The Bends. It's very painful (or, so I've heard - in diving class, everyone has a story about someone getting it, but I've never seen it...)

    Fortunately, you won't last long - your body and diaphragm will work to breathe, but there's no atmosphere to pull in, and you'll lose cognitive ability in 30 to 45 seconds....

    After that, the gases & liquids in your body will continue to out-gas, and you'll be found in a thousand or a million years as a dried-up mummy.

    Not very pretty....

  • 7 years ago

    Hollywood has a tendency to exaggerate things purely for the dramatic effect of it, but there is a little scientific truth to support those scenes that are showing a swelling of the body when exposed to a vacuum.

    The human body is primarily made up of water, which boils at 212 deg F at sea-level, atmospheric pressure (14.7 psi). At higher elevations where atmospheric pressure is a little lower, the boiling point drops slightly. In some places water will boil at 210 deg F, or 208 deg F. In space, however, there is no pressure at all (it's a complete vacuum, of course). This lowers the boiling point of water to a point where if the body was exposed to it the fluids inside of them would immediately begin to boil, converting liquid water to a gaseous state (hence the swelling).

    That said, the body is also exposed to extremely low temperatures as well, so the liquids in the body will also freeze instantly.

    Bottom line, whatever doesn't boil will freeze. Whatever doesn't freeze will boil.

    The problem with Hollywood is that they drag out this process to make it last longer than it really would (again, for the dramatic effect). It would unlikely take the fluids in your body long enough to freeze or boil that the person's skin would remain expandable long enough to retain these gases in the body allowing it to swell up to a point of exploding. The skin itself would also instantly freeze or boil off all liquids.

    It may even be more likely that a person would appear to shrivel up into a frozen prune and crack, rather than swell up like a soft balloon and explode.

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