10 Things That Happen To An Exposed Human In Space

We’ve all seen it in sci-fi movies: Someone gets sucked out of a spaceship and thrown into the emptiness of space. Not surprisingly, many movies get it wrong. But the reality of a human exposed to the vacuum of space may be weirder and more bizarre than you ever imagined.

10 The Vacuum Of Space

First things first—if the exterior of your spaceship is compromised (punctured by a whizzing asteroid perhaps) the interior will rapidly depressurize, and you will be sucked out into the vacuum of space.

The ship would initially be pressurized in order to mimic earth’s atmosphere and maintain a proper, livable environment. But once the ship is damaged, the air inside will rapidly expand outward, creating a vacuum and violently pulling everything out with it—including you. If you’re lucky enough to not be killed by flying debris during the ordeal, you’ll still find yourself in a pretty grim situation: you’ll be left to fend for yourself, floating hopelessly in the abyss of space.

9 Extreme Swelling

Remember Veruca Salt from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory who puffed up like a giant blueberry? The effects of space on the human body would be quite similar. Without the presence of Earth’s atmospheric pressure, the water that makes up 70 percent of our bodies doesn’t remain in its liquid state and expands until it forms water vapor. This would result in severe internal swelling throughout the body. In fact, a person would balloon out to approximately twice their normal size. The formation of the vapor wouldn’t be enough to burst the skin, but it’s safe to say you would experience some serious discomfort.

8 Exposure To Sunlight

A day at the beach can be ruined by a painful sunburn—especially if you forget your sunblock. Now imagine being exposed to the power of the sun without our ozone layer filtering out the most harmful ultraviolet rays. The effects would be devastating to the human body. A person floating in space would be horribly burned over any portion of exposed skin. In addition, looking directly into the sun would fry your light-sensitive retinas and render you blind. And even if you did survive, your likelihood of contracting skin cancer would increase dramatically.

7 Suffocation By Hypoxia

When exposed to the vacuum of space, a person will be totally deprived of oxygen, but not in the way you might think. The condition is known as hypoxia: Without earth-like pressure, the oxygen in your bloodstream will begin to reverse-dissolve and escape from your blood. This will render your cardiovascular system useless, and no oxygen will be delivered to your muscles or vital organs. The fact that you are no longer able to breathe in any new oxygen just exacerbates the problem. In addition, the suffocating effect would begin to turn your skin blue. A person can last approximately 10 seconds in this condition before they black out.

6 Rapid Cooling

On a hot day, our bodies produce sweat to cool down. As the sweat evaporates from the surface of our skin, it uses up heat energy and causes a cooling effect. But this effect is greatly exaggerated in outer space. Normally, the humidity in the air inhibits the cooling effect quite a bit because it’s harder for sweat to evaporate into air that’s already saturated with water. But in the dark emptiness of space, there is no humidity. This allows for the accelerated evaporative cooling of any exposed bodily fluids. Your watery eyes, mouth, and respiratory tract will freeze over as a result.

5 Decompression Sickness

As we’ve already seen, the low pressure of space prevents oxygen from remaining dissolved in your blood. This vacuum-like environment does the same for other gasses, like nitrogen. This causes tiny nitrogen bubbles to form all throughout your circulatory system (which is the literal definition of the bends). One side effect these bubbles have is extreme joint pain, but far worse are the effects the bubbles have when they create blockages in your veins and arteries. Bubbles in your brain can cause stroke and seizures. A bubble in your heart can cause sudden heart failure and death.

4 No Blood Pressure

As you can tell by now, space has horrible effects on the human body. Both internally and externally, you are stretched, ballooned, and otherwise contorted. As a result, your misshapen body will struggle to maintain a normal blood pressure. For example, a person can easily generate enough force to drink soda through a normally sized straw. But what if the straw’s diameter was 10 times as large? Similarly, your heart would not be capable of pumping blood through your enlarged veins. Your blood pressure would effectively drop to zero and you would die.

3 Explosive Decompression

One fatal mistake you could make as you’re sucked out of your spaceship would be taking one final, deep breath. You might think the extra air would help you stay alive for another minute or so, but the actual result would be quite the opposite. Holding that air in your lungs in the vacuum of space would result in explosive decompression—of your lungs. Imagine that for a second.

The air would expand violently in the low-pressure environment and cause your lungs to burst like balloons. If you ever find yourself in such a situation, you would be wise to exhale as much as possible to avoid this explosive trauma.

2 Boiling Blood

The lower the pressure is in an environment, the lower the boiling point will be for any liquid in that same environment. This is because when there’s less pressure, it’s easier for the molecules to move around, so it takes less heat energy to transform the packed-in molecules of a liquid to a less-dense gas.

This is why water boils more easily at higher altitudes. In space, the boiling point of your blood could realistically drop down until it’s the same as your own body temperature—at which point your blood would begin to boil. The temperature of your blood would still be normal, but in the vacuum of space that might be all it needs to boil.

1 Cellular Mutation

Even if you somehow managed to survive space exposure, you still wouldn’t be out of the woods. In addition to these other issues, the blackness of space also contains many invisible dangers. During the brief time that you were exposed, you would be bombarded with a whole host of dangerous sub-atomic particles. This includes gamma rays, energized protons, and x-rays. These particles are so small that they interact with you on a cellular level and actually alter you DNA. But this would not result in superpowers as some comic books might suggest. Instead, you would almost certainly die of radiation poisoning or cancer years later.


The Fortified Towns in M'Zab Valley

MʾZab is a deep, narrow oasis valley located within the Sahara, consisting of five walled towns, about 600 km south of Algiers, the capital of Algeria. The five towns, together known as the Pentapolis, are spread along the valley over a distance of about 10 km, and were established in the 11th century by Mozabite Berbers. The Mozabites were originally from Northwest Africa, a region historically known as the Maghreb, who had their capital at Tahert. When a devastating fire destroyed their home in 909, the Mozabites left Tahert and settled in M'Zab valley. There, they built five fortified towns — each a miniature citadel, encircled by walls, and dominated by a mosque, whose minaret functioned as a watchtower.

El Ateuf, M’Zab Valley.

Each of the five towns — Ghardaia, Melika, Beni Isguen, Bou Noura and El Atteuf — are built on a knoll and surrounded by pastel-colored box-like buildings, tightly packed together in concentric circles around a central mosque built on the summit of a hill. The mosque is conceived as a fortress, the last bastion of resistance in the event of a siege, and comprises an arsenal as well as a granary. Around this building are houses built in concentric circles up to the ramparts. These houses were designed for communal living, within a remarkably egalitarian social structure which respects the privacy of the family. Buildings are tightly packed, with narrow alleyways and covered passages winding between them.

Ghardaia is the main town and capital of the M'zab, while El-Ateuf is the oldest settlement in the region. Beni Isguen is the most enigmatic of all the M’zab towns. It’s considered very holy and until recently, only residents of the town were allowed to enter after dark and at night the gate was locked. This is no longer the case, but Beni Isguen remains the most traditional settlement in M’zab. The women here are very camera shy, both by tradition and by religion. As Johathan Oakes writes in his Algeria travel guide:

Here you will find that all the women follow the tradition of wearing the haik, a large cloth that is wrapped around the body and face, allowing only one eye to be seen. Before marriage girls are allowed to show their faces but after marriage then only one eye can be shown. You will find that if you look at any of these women they will tighten their hold on the material, thus closing the hole even more. In the past it was custom for women to face the wall when strangers passed; though this is no longer the case you will still find that women will do their best to avoid your stares and will often follow another path when they see you coming. These women are gloriously photogenic but it is strictly forbidden to take a photo of them and doing so would cause outrage.

All the towns of M’zab are notable for having preserved their original culture and cohesion between the communities throughout the years, virtually untouched by the outside world. In 1982, they were awarded UNESCO World Heritage status.

Ghardaia, M’Zab Valley.

Beni Isguen, M’Zab Valley. 

Beni Isguen, M’Zab Valley.

Ghardaia, M’Zab Valley. 

Aerial view of orchards and gardens upstream from Ghardaia.

Beni Isguen, M’Zab Valley. 



An example of traditional architecture in Ghardaia. 

Shops line the streets in Ghardaia. 

Narrow streets in Ghardaia.

Women in Ghardaia. 


El Ateuf. 


Salton Sea - The Accidentally Created Lake

The Salton Sea is a shallow, saline lake located 226 feet below sea level, occupying the lowest elevations of the Salton Sink in the Colorado Desert of Imperial and Riverside counties in Southern California. With an average surface area of 1,360 square km, it is the largest lake in California. Yet, just a century ago, the lake didn’t even exist.

The Salton Sea was a vast geological depression, a dry bed, that was often referred to as the “Colorado Desert” throughout the Spanish period of California's history. A flood in 1905 poured the Colorado River into the sink, and by the time authorities managed to stop the flooding two years later, the largest lake in California had already formed.

In 1900, the California Development Company began construction of irrigation canals to divert water from the Colorado River into the Salton Sink, a dry lake bed. After construction of these irrigation canals, the Salton Sink became fertile for a time, allowing farmers to plant crops. In 1905, heavy rainfall and snowmelt caused the Colorado River to swell, pouring water down the canal and into the Salton Sink. The flood waters breached two dikes and formed two new rivers that quickly inundated the valley. Over a period of approximately two years these two newly created rivers - New River and the Alamo River - sporadically carried the entire volume of the Colorado River into the Salton Sink. As the basin filled, the town of Salton, a Southern Pacific Railroad siding, and Torres-Martinez Native American land were also submerged.

Intermittent flooding of the Imperial Valley by the Colorado river continued. Eventually it led to the construction of Hoover Dam in the 1930s and the flooding finally stopped. Salton Sea is now fed by the New, Whitewater, and Alamo rivers, as well as agricultural runoff, drainage systems, and creeks. The average annual inflow of 1.68 cubic km is enough to maintain a maximum depth of 52 feet and a total volume of about 9.3 cubic km.

In 1950, the California Department of Fish and Game released thousands of fish into the Salton Sea. A few species survived and Salton Sea quickly became a fisherman’s paradise. With new fish to eat, the Sea also became a new stopover point for migratory birds. Over 400 species have been documented at the Salton Sea. Around 30% of the remaining population of the American white pelican lives in its shores, and the lake is also a major resting stop on the Pacific Flyway.

By 1960, Salton Sea had developed into a resort with Salton City, Salton Sea Beach, and Desert Shores on the western shore and Desert Beach, North Shore, and Bombay Beach built on the eastern shore. Several multi-million dollar marinas and yacht clubs sprung up around the shoreline. Golf courses began to appear everywhere. Thousands showed up to watch the Salton Sea 500, a 500 mile powerboat endurance race.

Salton Sea’s economic boom however didn’t last long. Since the Salton Sea has no outlet, the salt and chemicals dumped by agricultural runoffs and industries began to rise while the water level remained the same, resulting in increased concentration of toxic chemicals. Over the years, fish began to die in large masses - tens of thousands of dead fish and birds began regularly washing up on the shore of the Salton Sea. When in the summer of 1999, 7.6 million Tilapia died from oxygen starvation caused by the overabundant algae, the authorities knew the situation was grim. Their rotting carcasses rimmed parts of the Sea for over ten years. Combined with the decaying algae, the smell was overwhelming.

In the late 1990s, the Salton Sea Authority, a local joint powers agency, and the US Bureau of Reclamation began efforts to evaluate and develop an alternative to save the Salton Sea. Many concepts have been proposed. Some advocate piping water from the Sea to a wetland in Mexico to remove excess salt, others prefer bringing in more water from the Gulf of California to dilute the salt. Still others believe the only way to save the Sea is by cleaning it up and keeping it as a valued part of the Pacific Flyway, constructing evaporation ponds in its northern half as a way of desalinating the water.

Perhaps the Salton Sea is destined to dry up just like a giant puddle in the pavement does. Geologists have found evidences that prove that the Salton Sink was alternately a fresh water lake and a dry desert basin, in a cycle that repeated itself countless times over hundreds of thousands of years. The 1905 creation of the lake was just the latest natural cycle. However, this time humans intervened and the ecosystem changed, perhaps forever.

Postcards of Salton Sea resorts during its heydays.


China’s New Highway is Built Over Water

China has opened a new stretch of road that connects Xingshang County to the Zhaojun Bridge in central China’s Hubei province. A 4-km-long section of the 10-km route is built on top of an elevated bridge that runs along the middle of a river valley. The new route will cut down travel time from Xingshan to the Yiba Expressway to just 20 minutes, and at the same time treat drivers to a spectacular scenery. The journey originally took close to an hour along a steep and convoluted road.

According to the project manager of the road Chen Xingda, when the motorway was first proposed in 2013, there were three different possible routes. Two of the routes involved digging a tunnel through the mountains in the area. The third was a longer route and involved building on water. Engineers on the project chose the third option because that would enable them to protect the abundance of plants and woodland in the mountains. Those involved in the project claim this to be China’s first “ecological overwater road”. The overwater highway cost about 2 million yuan (US$320,000) to construct which was nearly half of the 4.4 million yuan ($700,000) it cost to build the entire thing.