The coming decades should bring a number of developments when it comes to hurling people into orbit and beyond. Private space travel continues, with Elon Musk and Richard Branson working for civil exploration. Professional astronauts continue to invest in scientific research at the International Space Station ISS. In the 2040s, human colonists could undertake the grueling journey to Mars.
As opportunities increase, so does the potential for mishap. Although only 18 people have died since the advent of intragalactic travel in the 20th century, taking more common risks could mean that forensics researchers will have to declare "space" as the place of death in the future. However, as it is rare to find a working astronaut with limited health or at an advanced age, how will most potential victims in space meet their maker?
Popular Science asked this question to the former commander Chris Hadfield of the ISS. According to Hadwalk, spacewalks ̵
This morbid scene would then have to be treated by the escort team. According to Popular Science NASA has no official guidelines for handling a corpse, but Hadfield said the training of the ISS touches on the possibility. As he explained, astronauts would have to treat the body as a biological hazard and find out about their storage options, as there are really no prepared areas for it. To deal with both problems, a commander would probably recommend keeping the body in a pressurized suit and taking it to a cold location – such as where garbage is stored to minimize odor.
If that sounds less than royal, NASA agrees. The company has already dealt with the disposal of space bodies, and one proposal is to freeze the rigid material with liquid nitrogen (or simply the cold vacuum of space) so that it can be broken up into tiny pieces of frozen tissue that only occupy a fraction of the property that would make a corpse full size.
Why not eject a body as Captain Kirk and his crew were forced to deal with the allegedly dead Spock in the years of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan ? Bodies thrown into space without a missile to change their trajectory would likely be in the lane of the spacecraft. If enough people died on a long journey, it would be a kind of inverted funeral procession.
Even if they have landed safely on another planet, the options of an astronaut do not necessarily improve. On Mars, cremation would probably be necessary to destroy all the bacteria living on the earth that would thrive on a buried body.
Like most of the things we take for granted on Earth – eat, move and even poop – this may be a long time before dying in space becomes worthy.
[ h / t Popular Science ]
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