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Space & Astronomy

What happens if you die during a trip to Mars ?

By T.K. Randall
April 18, 2021 · Comment icon 11 comments

Sooner or later, someone is going to die far out in space. Image Credit: NASA
It hasn't happened yet, but it is inevitable that one day, someone will die during a mission in deep space.
In science fiction movies such as Ridley Scott's 'Alien', crew members are often jettisoned into space when they die - a form of 'burial' that echoes the way sailors back on Earth would deposit a body overboard after a death at sea.

But what would happen if someone actually died during a space mission in real-life ?

There is no denying that space is a dangerous place - accidents could very quickly lead to disaster and deadly radiation is likely to take its toll on anyone who ventures too far from the safety of Earth.

NASA does not currently have protocols in place for such an eventuality and it is not a foregone conclusion that the decision would be made to jettison the deceased's body into space.

One astronaut who has considered the possibilities is NASA's Chris Hadfield.

"Okay, what are we going to do with his corpse ?" he wrote in his book An Astronauts Guide to Life while speculating about how such a scenario would be handled.
"There are no body bags on Station, so should we shove it in a spacesuit and stick it in a locker? But what about the smell? Should we send it back to Earth on a resupply ship and let it burn up with the rest of the garbage on re-entry? Jettison it during a spacewalk and let it float away into space?"

Some experts have even considered another possibility - what if the remains of the deceased could serve as a source of rations in the event of an emergency in space ?

While it might seem unfathomable, there have been many situations on Earth - such as after a plane crash in the mountains - in which the survivors have had to dine on human remains to survive.

Ultimately, how best to deal with a death in space is something that will have to be decided upon eventually - especially when humans begin venturing out on deep space missions.

Let us hope, however, that such protocols will not have to be enacted in practice for a long time.

Source: Popular Science | Comments (11)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #2 Posted by Eldorado 3 years ago
Aye... we have some threads on that. https://www.unexplained-mysteries.com/forum/topic/326397-melting-glaciers-expose-mt-everests-dead/?tab=comments#comment-6694228 https://www.unexplained-mysteries.com/forum/topic/327465-beer-bottles-dead-bodies-litter-everest/?tab=comments#comment-6730173
Comment icon #3 Posted by jethrofloyd 3 years ago
Yuck......this remainded me of ''Alive'' film which was filmed after a true event. Film details a Uruguayan rugby team's crash into the Andes mountains on October 13, 1972. To survive 72 days, the starving passengers decided to eat the flesh of their dead relatives and friends.
Comment icon #4 Posted by Manwon Lender 3 years ago
Yes that is a very true story, and some of the recent remains that have been uncovered by ice melting do to Global Warming. Each person left on the mountain has a story to tell, and while it is very sad it is also very Risky to climb that mountain. The gentleman below is nicknamed Green Boots, he is the most well know deceased climber on Everest. This is because he did died on the main climbing trail to the summit. So he is now used as trail marker, and every climb that climbs the Mountain see him. His given name is Tsewang Paljor and died in 1996 on the decent from the summit during a snow st... [More]
Comment icon #5 Posted by ted hughes 3 years ago
George Mallory! I remember that name from school decades ago! We rather prefer out heroes to fail I think, think Scott of the Antarctic, Sir John Franklin. 
Comment icon #6 Posted by OverSword 3 years ago
Something romantic about being jettisoned. Hopefully far enough from a planet that you just go essentially forever.
Comment icon #7 Posted by Jon the frog 3 years ago
On Mars.. you have soil to do a proper grave. Dig a hole, put the corpse and a marker. 
Comment icon #8 Posted by godnodog 3 years ago
If it was to happen to me, you can aim at a direction into deep space. who knows what will happen, maybe It´ll be the origin of a strange alien monster for some species.
Comment icon #9 Posted by Seti42 3 years ago
I think the question is: Will we recycle the corpse like the mass of organic material it is, or will we jettison it into space while praying?
Comment icon #10 Posted by Timothy 3 years ago
Comment icon #11 Posted by godnodog 3 years ago
Most likely recycle, I don´t think we´ll destroy it or incinerate it, despite lots of people think its morbid. Rembmeber that all of what we are, was something before, and before that it was something, in us there are once a  megalodont atoms or zulu or viking or apache or a mongolian warrior atom, maybe a butterfly, or even part of Cleopatra´s turd.

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