Sending humans into space is an incredible feat, but it comes with significant risks and challenges.
Over the past 60 years, 20 individuals have lost their lives during human space exploration missions.
Despite the complexity of space travel, the number of casualties has remained surprisingly low.
However, as plans to send astronauts to the Moon in 2025 and eventually to Mars continue, the possibility of fatalities looms larger.
As space exploration becomes more routine, the inevitable question arises: What happens if someone dies in space?
In the past, on low-Earth-orbit missions like the International Space Station, the crew could swiftly return the body to Earth within hours or days.
Protocols are in place for such events, with the priority being the safe return of the remaining crew members.
However, if death were to occur during a long journey to Mars, turning back wouldn’t be feasible. In such a scenario, the body would likely be preserved on the spacecraft until it could be returned to Earth, which could be years later.
Although the stable temperature and humidity inside the spacecraft might aid preservation, it remains a challenging situation.
Death in Space: Challenges and Protocols
For deaths that occur outside the protection of a pressurized environment, such as stepping out into space without a spacesuit, the consequences are dire.
The lack of pressure and exposure to the vacuum of space would lead to instant suffocation and boiling of bodily fluids.
On planetary surfaces like the Moon or Mars, cremation is not an ideal option due to its high energy demand.
Burial, too, presents challenges as it could contaminate the planet with bacteria and other organisms from the body.
In such circumstances, it is conceivable that the body would be maintained in a special body bag until it could be brought back to Earth without danger.
Beyond the logistical concerns of handling the deceased, there are also emotional aspects to consider.
Supporting the crew in dealing with loss and aiding grieving families back on Earth are equally vital aspects that require attention.
As humanity embarks on the journey to colonize other worlds, whether the Moon, Mars, or beyond our solar system, planning and protocols for dealing with fatalities in space become essential.
While the chances of death in space are statistically low, preparing for this grim reality is crucial for the future of human space exploration.
Navigating the challenges of death in space will require a comprehensive approach that addresses both the practical and emotional aspects of this difficult reality.
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Source: Science Alert