- If you know one thing about space,
it's that you don't enter it
unprotected by a ship or a suit.
If you get blown out of an airlock without either,
that's it, you're done.
Or are you?
In the first Guardians of the Galaxy film,
we see something that goes against pretty much
every other death by space we've ever seen.
So, if you were blown out of an airlock,
what would really happen to your body,
and do you have to be one of the Guardians of the Galaxy
to survive it?
Alright, I'm talking specifically about this scene
in Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 1,
when Peter Quill intentionally exits his ship
to gift Gamora his kick-ass mask.
It looks like he spends a fair amount of time
in the vacuum of space without exploding
or bleeding from the eyes like we've seen in other films.
So, which version of death by space is accurate?
First of all, space is deadly.
There's no air for you to breathe in space,
and you would eventually suffocate.
But what else happens?
Humans, like every other organism on Earth,
evolved under some kind of pressure,
pushing down on me, pushing down on you,
no man asked for.
For us primates, that pressure has always been about
or around 15 pounds per square inch of pressure,
and that comes from the mass of air that surrounds us.
That pressure, in part, helped determine
what our bodies would look like,
how our blood would carry gas,
and even how our lungs would be able to force air
So, if all the air was suddenly sucked away from us,
like there's some mysterious hole,
then it would be,
you'd be (coughs).
So, if all the air was sucked away from you
through some theoretical hole,
you'd be forgiven in thinking that your blood
and your body and your lungs might kind of expand outwards
without the inward push of pressure,
and they might more or less expand to their breaking points
like marshmallows in a vacuum chamber.
But what would really happen to the human body in space,
aside from choking to death of course,
is a bit more subdued.
Peter Quill was lucky because space turns the body
into a bloated bag, not a bomb.
In the history of human space flight,
no person has fully subjected their bodies to the void,
but we do have a good idea
of what would happen to their bodies if they did
because of experiments we've conducted,
like in 1965, when NASA put a bunch of dogs
in a vacuum chamber and depressurized it,
effectively throwing them out of an airlock.
Here's what happened next.
I'm sorry about this.
All animals exposed to the low pressure
for longer than five seconds tended to lose consciousness
and began to swell and collapse
in between nine and 11 seconds.
Within the next five seconds,
unless the animals were recompressed,
they began to show marked expansion
due to gases
and gas expulsion from the stomach and lower bowel,
often leading in simultaneous, oh,
simultaneous projectile vomiting, oh,
defecation, oh, come on,
And the water vapor and gas expansion
were of such magnitude
that the animals quickly became immobilized
with the neck, body, and extremities in extended positions
similar in appearance to an inflated goatskin bag.
It can't get worse, right?
While at the low pressure,
the saliva-like excretions and urine
became frozen and partially dehy--,
like a pee-sicle,
It was also noticed in several animals
that after recompression to ground level,
the tongue was coated in ice.
After the test chamber was repressurized,
the dogs that did recover,
some didn't depending on how long they're exposed to vacuum,
returned to functional inside 30 minutes.
After 24 hours, the dogs that did survive
were back to normal, which fits with another study,
also in 1965, also by NASA, on chimps.
But all the chimps in this study survived
even after being exposed to the vacuum of space for minutes
and showed no ill effects afterwards.
So, if you are thrown out of an airlock
and you look like a gross blue Gumby creature,
first the air in your tissues and your blood would boil,
except they wouldn't get hot,
so you would just bloat.
But your skin is strong enough, so it wouldn't rip.
And then, all the air in your lungs and in your bowels
would force their way out,
and it would rip your lungs' tissue and freeze your tongue
and it would also pee your pants and then poop your pants
and then you might projectile vomit as well.
And then, you'd lose consciousness.
But you would not die immediately.
In fact, you have a few seconds of sanity
and you could be safely recovered
and returned to your normal state
if you were saved quickly enough.
This useful consciousness time,
according to all the experiments that we've done,
is around 15 uncomfortable seconds,
and death follows minutes thereafter.
Based on the experiments that we've done,
there is a finite amount of time
where a bloated gross Peter could save Gamora's life
and a finite amount of time before they both die
after passing out.
Did they make it?
Let's look at this scene again.
Since a lack of oxygen is the real reason
that space kills you eventually,
we want a total time without air,
allowing for the passage of time with camera cuts.
So, it looks like Peter spends about
10 seconds putting his mask on Gamora.
This is the time that he has to be usefully conscious.
It also looks like Gamora is exposed for 70 seconds
before the mask is put on her,
and Peter is exposed to space for a total of 50 seconds
after he removes his mask
before both are saved by the Ravagers.
According to everything that we just went through,
all three of these numbers check out.
This is enough time to be usefully conscious,
and this is enough time to be unconscious but saveable.
It could totally happen.
In fact, there's another unintentional experiment
that proves this.
In 1965, NASA test subject Jim LeBlanc's suit
accidentally depressurized inside of a full vacuum
He passed out within 15 seconds
but was revived 30 seconds later
after the chamber was represssurized.
His eyes didn't pop out of his head.
He didn't explode.
His body didn't freeze solid.
But he did say that the last memory he had
before he passed out was the saliva on his tongue
If Jim could survive this kind of exposure
in this time frame,
Star-Lord too could survive his contact with the cosmos.
So, how long could Star-Lord or you
survive in space unprotected?
Well, based on all the experiments we've done
and the accidents that we've had,
you could be conscious for about 15 seconds
before you're passed out and then have minutes to live
in which time you could be saved.
What I'm trying to say is that
that scene in Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 1
is more or less scientifically accurate,
right down to the frost on Peter's face
from his instantaneously evaporated sweat.
Although before the Ravagers beam them aboard,
they might want to change both of their pants.
Thank you so much for watching.
Make sure to follow me on Twitter at @Sci_Phile
where you can suggest ideas for future episodes
and on Facebook and Instagram
where I'm now posting mini episodes of my show
like I did today.
Thank you, again, for doing it.
The dance-off scene at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy 1
is a lot of fun,
but remember that Ronan only had to touch his staff
down to the surface of Xandar
and it would explode, right?
He had 62 seconds to do that.
No, come on, dance-off, boop.
No, come on, I'm just trying to distract, boop.