Q&BA: What happens if you are exposed to the vacuum of space?

Q&BA: What happens if you are exposed to the vacuum of space?

Q&BA: What happens if you are exposed to the vacuum of space?

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
Jan. 31 2012 12:21 PM

Q&BA: What happens if you are exposed to the vacuum of space?

[Note: Every week I hold a live video chat on Google+ where I answer questions from readers. I call it Q&BA, and when I get a question that stands alone, I'll make it its own video. ]

A lot of people, it seems, have morbid thoughts about space. Why else would I get asked this so much: "What would happen to the human body exposed to the vacuum and cold of space?"

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

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Of course, this sort of thing is depicted in scifi movies a lot, and people are curious about it. And even though the movies always get it wrong -- you don't explode, or freeze instantly -- it does make folks wonder about it. And while the reality isn't maybe as gooey as in the movies, it's still pretty nasty.


I wrote about this in my review of the movie "Mission to Mars", as well as answering a question many years ago from a reader. And even though it's an icky thing to think about, it does give me a chance to talk about heat transfer, which is pretty, um, cool.