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Saturday, April 25, 2009

If a person was buried in space, would the body decompose?

buried in outerspaceAlthough plenty's been written on the effect a total vacuum would have on a live human body, there's little information about the effects on a corpse. Based on what we've read, however, we'll venture a scenario.

Many of the same processes that cause a body to decompose on Earth would continue in space, since they don't require oxygen. Your intestinal system is host to millions of tiny bacteria that begin to "digest" you as soon as you kick the bucket. On a more elemental level, dying cells release enzymes that break down various proteins and molecules.

Contrary to urban legend, your eyes would not burst and your body would not explode when exposed to a total vacuum. Your body would experience internal ruptures as the pressure drops, but skin, even dead skin, is a fairly resilient container.

We assume that since water vaporizes in a vacuum, eventually your body would become entirely desiccated. You'd also be exposed to all sorts of radiation. Ultimately this would turn you into an interstellar Slim Jim. Lovely image, no?