Another Wednesday, another science post. I happen to be in a particularly gruesome mood today, so let’s talk about what happens when you go into space without a spacesuit.
There are several popular misconceptions about human exposure to vacuum that have been debunked so many times I’m not even sure we can properly call them misconceptions any more. People do not explode in space. They do not freeze solid. Their blood does not start to boil. It is actually possible to survive – if rather uncomfortably – for a minute or two in a total vacuum, so it’s not an immediately lethal environment. Noted sci-fi hack Arthur C. Clarke wrote a key scene in 2001 where Bowman forgets his spacesuit helmet, gets locked outside the ship by Hal and has to get back inside by doing an unprotected EVA, and whatever else might be said about Clarke there’s nothing scientifically implausible about this scene at all. It hasn’t happened yet (as far as I know) but it could.