A rather horrible accounting of what happens if an astronaut floats off into space


I didn’t read this article. I don’t have to. If I floated away from the ISS by accident, yes, I would try everything to get back. But if everything failed and you told me that the last 7.5 hours of my life would be spent floating in orbit above this planet… I would simply say “thank you.” The best way to die… ever.

[An edit to explain a bit further:] If you love life, as I do, there is no good way to die. But some ways might be better than others, and there might be one that’s better than all. There’s a reason that I’m not an astronaut. Let us overlook the fact that I’m too old, out-of-shape, overweight, and don’t have the right education. I’m not an astronaut because if they sent me up there, I’d never get any work done. I’d be forever looking out the window. And so, if I was drifting away with all hope of rescue gone, at least I’d have I’d have 7.5 hours to take in what Yuri Gagarin and so many after him got to see. Thank you.


Best way indeed, unless you happen to be spinning uncontrollably. Are there any arm/leg/body movements you could make to slow your spin rate? Using just body motions, could you orient yourself in any position/direction?

Ask someone of a near death SCUBA accident how calm and appreciative they were of the magnificent view as they were unable to breathe. [Edit: sorry, meant to reply to cronopio]

Is asphyxiation better or worse than drowning in your suit?

Is there a reason why a spacewalk wouldn’t involve continual use of safety tethers???

Somehow I would think the scuba situation would be much scarier. I’m imagining the space suit operating normally but gradually giving less oxygen after a time, with hypoxia setting in, might even possibly be a euphoric ending before passing out. That plus being weightless and the stunning view. But I’m just speculating, ask me on another day and I might get nervous just thinking about it.

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space octopi attack?

“Insisting on perfect safety is for people who don’t have the balls to live in the real world.”
~ Mary Shafer, NASA Dryden Research Center


They do, but I think this talk was started by the George Clooney “astronauts on the ISS get fucked” movie that’s coming out pretty soon.

Enter [Project Moose][1], the “lightweight, erectable, one man re-entry vehicle for emergency return to earth” proposal from the '60s.
[1]: http://www.boggsspace.com/strange_but_true.asp

There’s no air resistance, so no - no movements would be able to slow you down or stop a spin. Astronauts do wear a jetpack for such occasions.

So, it wraps the astronaut in foam and aluminum foil then has him smash in to the stratosphere. Are you sure they’re not just trying to make a baked potato and got the ingredients slightly wrong?


Could an astronaut purposefully somehow vent her spacesuit to hasten death? Would that be preferable to having your life slowly flash before your eyes for 7.5 hours?

Simply hacking out those two sentences has made me realize I lack “the right stuff.”

I need a drink.

This reminds me of Neil Stephenson’s Anathem. Propelling yourself around using personal booster rockets, trying to hit something in orbit around the Earth, is hard. Unless you catch yourself immediately, and so are still floating essentially right next to the ISS, pointing yourself directly at the ISS and shooting the booster rocket is a sure-fire way to miss it completely.

I haven’t checked it out yet because I am waiting for a well-done account of what happens…

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In other words, it’s exactly the situation SF has already explored in pluperfect depth…?

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The article explains this in more detail. I was just sorry it didn’t have more detail on the existential horror of slowly approaching doom, while unable to suicide - unable to do anything at all, really.

If I blast my jet pack directly towards earth can I surf the atmosphere?

embedding a start time doesn’t seem to work… start at ~7:30


Absolutely sure. Nothing ruins a potato faster than aluminum foil. Now, if they had set that astronaut on a bed of rock salt…