Death In Space

   A person could be subjected to the vacuum of space in several ways. Either by going unprotected out an airlock, through a breach in the hull or from a tear in a space suit, or a smashed helmet. If this were to happen, the air would be sucked from his lungs with one quick exhalation. From lack of oxygen, he would become giddy, his vision would blur, and in a few seconds he would die. If this happened near a star, so the body would receive some warmth, the water in the body would begin to slowly evaporate. This would cause the skin to blister, and ruptured blood vessels would cause some bruising. Eventually the body would mummify. If this accident (or murder) happened far from a star, on the dark side of the Moon, or some other place where heat was not present, the body would simply freeze solid.
   Another way to die in space is from radiation caused by a large solar flare, emitting around 1,000 rads. After exposure, the person would live for about four to six days. He would be in excruciating pain, and suffer from constant vomiting and diarrhea. Smaller solar flares would cause slower death. Exposure to around 600 to 750 rads would cause death by gastrointestinal collapse. A person exposed to levels of around 350 to 500 rads could take up to a month to die, usually from dehydration and emaciation, or if he survives these, from any of several blood problems.
   If the air revitalization system suffered a breakdown, then lethal levels of carbon dioxide would build up. This could take a few hours in a small spacecraft, or several days in a large space station. At three percent carbon dioxide, a person's breathing rate would double and they would have trouble hearing. As the levels of carbon dioxide increased, symptoms would include headache, dizziness and nausea. At six percent, a person would be confused and unable to take actions to stay alive. If the person was still conscious at eight percent, they would go into convulsions for about ten minutes, then lose consciousness.
   Other miscellaneous causes of death include hypothermia if the heaters fail, and fires in a spacecraft could cause death from burns and smoke inhalation. See Rad.

The writer's dictionary of science fiction, fantasy, horror and mythology. 2014.

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