What happens if people die in space?

Tuesday, August 29, 2023 – 10:09 am WIB

VIVA Techno – Sending people into space is a very difficult and dangerous task. Since human space exploration began over 60 years ago, 20 people have died.

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What happens if someone dies in space?

Survivors included 14 people in the NASA spacecraft tragedies in 1986 and 2003, three astronauts on the Soyuz 11 mission in 1971, and three astronauts in the Apollo 1 launch pad fire in 1967.

The Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) plans to send crews to the Moon in 2025 and astronauts to Mars in the next decade.

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Commercial space flights will become routine. As space travel has become more common, the chances of someone dying along the way have also increased.

This is reminiscent of a grim but necessary question: if someone dies in space, what happens to their body?

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According to Emmanuel Urquieta, a space doctor, if someone dies while flying in low Earth orbit, such as the International Space Station (ISS), the crew will be able to return the body to Earth in a capsule within a few hours.

Astronauts work outside the International Space Station (ISS).

Astronauts work outside the International Space Station (ISS).

But if it happened on the moon, the crew could be home with the body in just a few days. NASA already has detailed protocols for such events.

Due to the rapid return, it is unlikely that the preservation of the remains will not become a major issue for NASA. Instead, the top priority is to ensure the safe return of the remaining crew to Earth.

The situation would be different if an astronaut died en route to Mars at a distance of 300 million miles, according to the Science Alert page on Tuesday, August 29, 2023.

In this case, the crew may not be able to return. Instead, the remains will most likely return to Earth along with the crew at the end of the mission, i.e. in a few years.

In this case, the crew can store the bodies in separate rooms or special bags for corpses. The stable temperature and humidity inside the spacecraft would theoretically help keep the body.

But all of these scenarios only apply if someone dies in a pressurized environment, such as on a space station or spacecraft.

The astronauts would have died instantly if left without the protection of space suits. The loss of pressure and exposure to a vacuum will make it impossible for astronauts to breathe. The blood and other body fluids will boil.

Shroud covering the face of a corpse on Mars.

Shroud covering the face of a corpse on Mars.

What happens if an astronaut goes to the Moon or Mars without a space suit? The Moon has almost no atmosphere, while Mars has a very thin atmosphere and almost no oxygen. So the result is practically the same as when exposed to outer space, namely suffocation and blood boiling.

Suppose an astronaut dies after landing on the surface of Mars. Cremation was undesirable as it required too much of the surviving crew’s energy for other purposes. Funerals are not a good idea either. Bacteria and other organisms from the body can contaminate the surface of Mars.

Instead, the crew will most likely store the body in a special body bag until it is returned to Earth.

Much remains unknown about how researchers will deal with death. The question is not only what to do with the body.

Helping the crew cope with the loss and help grieving families return to Earth is just as important as handling the bodies of the dead.

But for the actual colonization of another world – be it the Moon, Mars, or a planet outside our solar system – this dire scenario requires careful planning and protocol.

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But if it happened on the moon, the crew could be home with the body in just a few days. NASA already has detailed protocols for such events.


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