By Maaike,

Expect Everything Dutch reporter



If you have seen the movie “Gravity”‘ you know the phenomenon: a fly-away George Clooney who gives his life for the protagonist. Of course, this is all recorded in a studio but what if you actually float away from the last pieces of humanity?


So far we (thankfully) never lost an astronaut in Dark matter. NASA regulations are very strict, what makes it almost impossible to loose someone in outer space. When an astronaut travels outside the space shuttle they are held in place by the shuttle with a 26m long cable which can hold 500kg. In the unlikely event the cable fails, the astronauts have a jetpack, the Manned Manoeuvring Unit. The jetpack is also used in EVA missions, missions outside the space shuttle. This jetpack can reach a speed of 25m/s (90 km/h) and can be used for 6 hours! In the even more unlikely event that the jetpack fails as well, the teammates will try to rescue the astronaut. But this is a complex operation that lasts long and if your buddies can not save you, you slowly float into black matter.


What then?

Newton’s first law states: “An object either remains at rest or continues to move at a constant velocity, unless acted upon by a net force.” This means that the direction of the astronaut is determined by the last force acted on him/her.

The spacesuits used for the missions outside the space shuttle have eight layers to protect the astronaut from meteorites, heat, UV radiation, extreme cold. The suits provide oxygen as well. The packs have sufficient oxygen and water to survive for eight hours. If the spacesuit by some reason has been damaged, the astronaut passes out after fifteen seconds and the body inflates to at least twice its normal size in a few minutes. If the suit is not damaged, the astronaut looses the signal from the space shuttle when he/she is out of reach and he/she have to serve the 8 hours until the oxygen is depleted.


The body

When the astronaut is deceased after an eight-hour torture, the body will remain to float in a widening orbit around earth. The body remains intact exceptionally well because of the vacuum. Bacteria can’t stay alive in a vacuum. Orbiting earth, it is possible the body come in contact with other space shuttles and/or satellites. NASA doesn’t have a protocol for this problem, probably because it never occurred yet. However, there are workouts for astronauts where they learn to cope with the death of a colleague. So, for now, we stick to a good sci-fi movie, but we can expect everything from the future!