An intriguing question was recently raised on Quora, “Can a person in space survive without a spacesuit?”
Although there were many good answers, we believe the answer given by the space traveler, video game developer and an entrepreneur Richard Garriott de Cayeux was the most understandable yet comprehensive one:
He started off with a clear and blatant “No”, and then continued with the explanation. He explained that a person would not die instantly without a space suit, but would most certainly die very quickly and painfully.
The first obvious thing that he mentioned was the lack of oxygen which would result in the demise. The air inside the lungs would be sucked out into the abyss, with no way of inhaling anything else. This would be enough to quickly yet painfully suffocate you to death.
But this isn’t even the start of it. The next likely thing to happen is the formation of gas bubbles the blood and tissues inside your body. Richard gave an example of the opening of a soda bottle with all the bubbles forming inside the liquid. He wrote that similar bubbles would form throughout your body instantaneously. This phenomenon is called Ebullism, and the bubbles form due to a reduction in ambient pressure. The pressure in the space is so low that the boiling point of the fluids in your reduces below the body’s normal temperature (37oC), resulting in the formation of gas bubbles in your fluids. This is true as deep sea divers also get bends from much less changes in pressure than a person would encounter in space. And these bends are usually very painful and sometimes even fatal. It would be a lot more painful and fatal once we are in space. Your body will swell up pretty badly, even up to twice your normal size, but your elastic skin will prevent you from exploding.
Then he explained that only having the space suit is not enough. It is not merely a fashion statement but contains all the sensors and systems to enable an astronaut to survive. The spacesuit which is unconnected with a spacecraft is of no use, as there will be no power source to control and keep the systems running. Spacesuits are required to heat you when you are on the shady side of the Earth and lower the temperatures when you are on the sunny side. So without the suit, you will either get a really bad sunburn due to Sun’s UV light, or get turned into a popsicle, but that will happen very slowly.
Suits are also needed to give a steady supply of oxygen that is required to survive, while recycling the carbon dioxide built inside the suit. So unless your suit is connected with the spacecraft, these systems will run out of resources and power very quickly. Lack of oxygen will result in being brain dead, and eventually failure of all other organs one by one.
So in short, if you are ever caught in the space without a suit, you will swell up, burn, mutate, pass out with your lungs nearing a full blown explosion. Quite a poem! But you have probably got a minute or two to be rescued before all this kills you, so try to find a spacecraft as soon as you can!
Have any other theories on why would a man die without a spacesuit? Comment below!