Can we survive in space with no protection?
September 29, 2008 7:57 AM   Subscribe

Could people really survive in space, for 10 or so seconds with no protection bar thermal wrap?

In the recent Danny Boyle film Sunshine, a number of the characters (2 I think) have to propel themselves from one space ship to another (Icarus 1 to Icarus 2). There is a gap of around (all from my poor memory) 20 metres and the 2 characters in question have ZERO protection from 'pure' space barring some thermal heat wrap type stuff.

Is this possible as I had figured that their heads would explode due to the change in pressure or they would freeze in microseconds?
posted by micklaw to Media & Arts (9 answers total)
This was covered in the Straight Dope. Basically: "Death would not be instantaneous. It's believed you'd have 10-15 seconds of "useful consciousness" and it'd be several minutes before you'd die."
posted by Grither at 8:03 AM on September 29, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks cowbell but I never trust wikipedia - I prefer to pick the collective hive brain!
posted by micklaw at 8:11 AM on September 29, 2008

Best answer: There's a good article about that scene, and surviving in space, over at Slate.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:12 AM on September 29, 2008

There was a scene that addressed this in Event Horizon as well. It's version of how it would go was a bit more ... vivid, than Sunshine's.
posted by mr.anthony337 at 8:20 AM on September 29, 2008

Kind of covered it askme before, but it was about plants. (wall-e spoiler in the link)
posted by kuujjuarapik at 8:29 AM on September 29, 2008

Mod note: Side conversations about wikipedia, askme, etc. need to take place elsewhere.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:48 AM on September 29, 2008

Best answer: Here is a detailed and well-cited discussion. Basically you have about 5-10 seconds consciousness, and between 1-4 minutes before death with the quick end more likely. Freezing of the body will be slow, because the primary mode of heat transfer will be evaporation and radiation (think of a Dewar flask or vacuum bottle). Partial exposure to vacuum or near-vacuum is evidently very painful but not fatal as long as the respiratory tract remains pressurized.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:54 AM on September 29, 2008

Best answer: For some reason this is a question that endlessly fascinates people and bedevils the many question-and-answer facilities at

As you may imagine, they researched the question rather thoroughly during the space race. Although there is only one real human experience, they did collect a lot of medical data that shows that very brief exposure is certainly survivable.
posted by dhartung at 10:59 AM on September 29, 2008

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