The Science behind No Suit? Can you survive Space? - Reel or UnReal Episode 7
Introduction – Montage of video clips of the Great Orbax. Orbax is middle aged, bald with a ponytail at the back. A long curling moustache and a goatee. He is wearing a 3-piece grey plaid suit, with a lab coat, sometimes old motorcycle goggles. He is situated in a Physics lab at the University of Guelph and speaks directly into the camera.
Video clips show Orbax, putting on his lab coat and goggles. Running experiments in his lab with electricity, models, and beakers. Visuals end on the words Reel or UnReal.
Orbax on screen: We're going to explore the science of pop culture as we see what's Reel or Unreal.
Orbax on screen talking into his cell phone: “Houston, we have a problem... I forgot my spacesuit!”
Voice from Houston space station: “T-minus ten and liftoff!”
Orbax on screen, standing with his face stuck through a painted astronaut on a wall:
For decades, movies have explored humans in space, and unfortunately, many characters find themselves in space without a suit.
Orbax VO, clips from each movie play as he references them: From 2001: A Space Odyssey, to Princess Leia in Star Wars and even Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy.
Orbax on screen, image of a Nasa spacesuit graphic appears on screen over top of Orbax with his face looking out of the space helmet: Often we have these characters in the one place where they need a spacesuit and they don't have it.
So without the Force, how long can a human body actually survive in space?
Orbax on screen, images of an astronaut vacuuming in space appear beside him: Let's find out! Well first off, I guess it's important to define how space is different than here. You've probably often heard space referred to as a vacuum, and that's just it.
Orbax VO, image of space with text overlay: It is. There's nothing there. No matter. No gas, not even atoms, it's mostly empty.
Orbax on screen: And while space isn't entirely empty, t's pretty close to it. The average density of space is only 5.9 protons per cubic meter. We just happen to live in this incredibly dense region of space that we call home.
Orbax VO, animated diagram of people talking in space, underwater and in the air, video of the earth in space: They say that in space no one can hear you scream and they can't! Sound is just energy vibrating through the air. Without air to propagate it, you don't hear anything. And that's not it.
Orbax on screen: Without an atmosphere, there's no atmospheric pressure. And without that pressure constantly on your body, that's when things really start to go strange.
Orbax VO, screen is filled with text on “pressure” explaining math behind it, Orbax on screen and drawing of two astronauts in space: “So on Earth, we're exposed to 1 atmosphere of pressure; 101.3 kilopascals. A pascal is a unit of measurement of force per area.
So you can think of this as the force of the atmosphere exerts down on the surface area of your body at all times.
Orbax on screen, images beside him of lungs exploding: Now, when you're suddenly exposed to vacuum, the air in your lungs is actually still at that 1 atmosphere; 101.3 Kilopascals of pressure.
And if you don't get rid of that oxygen, your lungs are going to do that for you by violently decompressing.
So what you need to do is immediately exhale all that oxygen.
Orbax VO, illustrated animation of how lungs work: Now, once you've exhaled your oxygen, your actual threat is going to be lack of oxygen. So how do your lungs work? Well your lungs have blood pumping through them? That gets very close to that air and the blood absorbs the oxygen and delivers it to other parts of the body.
Orbax on screen: As soon as your lungs are out of vacuum, then all of a sudden they start to suck air out of your blood instead. This deoxygenated blood travels to your brain in about 15 seconds and renders you unconscious. And then at about 90 to 120 seconds, It's fatal.
Orbax VO, old footage of an experiment conducted in a large metal chamber with astronaut: This is the real danger of space travel. Check out Jim LeBlanc, a NASA astronaut who's exposed to vacuum for 25 seconds.
Orbax on screen: with images appearing beside him of eyes crying, blood flowing and a character from an old movie swelling up: Another major problem with exposure to low pressure is something called ebullism. Ebullism is a spontaneous transformation of water droplets into water vapour at body temperature, at low pressure.
So effectively, what this means is that the water in your eyes, your saliva, even the water in your bloodstream starts to boil off and create water vapour.
At the very least, what ends up happening is that your body starts to swell due to trapped water vapour under the skin.
So this is the part that's really going to blow your mind. The temperature of deep space is about 2.7 kelvin or -270°C.
Orbax VO, image on screen of heat in the galaxy: The temperature of the cosmic microwave background.
Orbax on screen, he smashes a frozen apple with a hammer: On Earth, temperatures even approaching that cold would freeze. You like this apple.
Orbax VO, illustration explaining Radiation, Convection and Conduction, But here's the thing. Heat transfers through three methods conduction, convection and radiation.
Orbax on screen: You lose body temperature by touching a cold, solid object. That's conduction. You can also come in contact with cold liquids or cold gases and they can leach heat from your body. That's called convection. But in space, there's there's none of that.
There's no solids, there's no liquids, there's no gases. So that just leaves you with radiation. And the truth of the matter is, you really don't lose that much body heat through radiation.
Orbax putting on goggles, pouring liquid nitrogen into a container that holds an apple, freezes the apple and then he smashes apple with hammer: So we do the demo with a container of liquid nitrogen. Liquid nitrogen sits at -196°C. When this apple comes in contact, it freezes almost instantaneously. But that's because of the close contact; conduction, convection. Notice I can pick up this container with my bare hands.
Orbax VO, illustration showing wall cavity and air space or container, and heating distribution in a home: So why isn't that container super cold? And that's because there's an air gap in those walls, a little tiny vacuum. And that means only radiative cooling can take place. And really, it doesn't cool it that much. That's how the insulation your house works.
Orbax on screen: So how long does it take to freeze in space from radiation? Well, on the short end, maybe a dozen hours.
But if you absorb heat from the sun or other stars, you may never freeze in space.
Orbax on screen with his face through a painting of an alien on a wall: So you're trying for one airlock to another and you've lost your suit. Will you survive?
Well, it seems like your best bet is to exhale and hope you make it there in 15 seconds.
Reel or UnReal logo appears
You never freeze in space. You might just have the horror of being alive.