August 6, 2021 By Sandee LaMotte, CNN
Ever look at the stars and dream of traveling to one? Humans are already living in space – in the International Space Station 254 miles above Earth – and space agencies are busy plotting a future visit to Mars.
It’s no longer science fiction to imagine humans living permanently in deep space, but would you be ready for it? Test your knowledge of space with CNN’s Your Body in Space quiz.
1 of 9You’ve been “spaced,” meaning you’ve been shoved out of an air lock without a space suit, in what might be deep space’s version of walking the plank. You will: Nope, not A. Contrary to many older sci-fi flicks, like “Outland” and “Total Recall” (1990), your head and body will not explode. Your body remains intact – it’s what is going on inside that kills you.
Dropped into the sudden decompression of space, “all of the oxygen that’s in your body and in your lungs starts getting pulled out of your body into the vacuum,” said Dr. Kris Lehnhardt, a leading scientist in the Human Research Program at the NASA Johnson Space Center.
“Your lungs will start to expand in a way that will likely cause them to collapse or to pop,” he added, unless all the air in your lungs is immediately expelled.
Scientists believe oxygen deprivation will render you unconscious within 15 seconds, with death occurring within the next 60 to 90 seconds.
It’s not C either. Space is an unthinkable minus 455 degrees Fahrenheit, very close to absolute zero, the point when no heat energy remains. But the only way that heat transfers in space is via radiation, a very slow process. It would take hours for all the heat to radiate from your body and turn you into a popsicle, and you’d be dead from oxygen deprivation long before that happened.
What about D? Could you live long enough to cross a gap of space between two spacecraft? Expanse fans know Naomi did push all the air out of her lungs just as the space lock opened, which theoretically means her lungs would not explode. She also used an injection of some oxygen mixture just as she was about to pass out.
“That might be possible, but nothing like that oxygen injection exists today, so that scene is more on the fiction side of science fiction,” Lehnhardt said, adding that even if she made it, she would need immediate access to a hyperbaric chamber and medical treatment to survive.
The answer is B. The “woosh” of air escaping from the airlock will propel you out into space – and your dead (and ultimately frozen) body will travel at that momentum until it hits a piece of space junk or is burned to a crisp by a star.
2 of 9You’re living in space in the future, having grown up traveling between the stars. You’re out for a deep space stroll, when suddenly your nose itches – and doesn’t stop. You decide to: The answer is A. “Today, you’d have to suffer in itchy agony, I’m afraid,” Lehnhardt said.
If you choose C, you could be right someday, in a galaxy far, far away.
“If humans were truly evolved for the space environment, would it be possible for someone to do something like that for a brief instance? It’s certainly conceivable,” Lehnhardt said.
“You would basically breathe out all the air of your lungs, hold that, scratch your face, and then put your mask back down and take a breath,” he said. “It’s possible that could happen in the future with people who live in deep space for long periods of time, but it would not be possible today.”
3 of 9You were born in space, with no access to planetary gravity. Now your grandparents are sick, and your parents, who were born on Earth, want to travel home to visit. You will: The answer is C. “If you were born in microgravity. I don’t think you would ever have the ability to walk around on Earth,” Lehnhardt said. “How would a baby’s muscles and bones develop in a way that would ever allow them to stand and walk on purpose?
“The moment astronauts get into space, their bodies begin to adapt to the space environment. The systems in their body that are gravity dependent start to be less important. Your inner ear, for instance, has to change the way it works for balance, and your muscles and bones have to change when there’s a lack of gravity as well,” Lehnhardt said.
In today’s space missions, bone loss begins within days and is at its worst between the second and fifth months in space, NASA says. Astronauts have returned to Earth with up to 20% bone loss. Why? No one knows, but it’s possible that microgravity may cause bone to break down faster.
Astronauts maintain an intense nutrition and exercise program and take medications to build bone while in space, but they still do not recover all of the lost bone mass when they return, Lehnhardt said.
“We may never get to a point where we can keep bone mass at 100%,” he said. “That might just be the nature of spaceflight and microgravity, but we are now able to preserve bone much better than we used to, which will hopefully serve our astronauts well in the long term.”
4 of 9Now humans have lived in space for a century. How might our bones differ from what we have today? Any answer might be right, but t
What do you do if you’ve been ‘spaced’?
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