What Happens When a Man Is Exposed to the Vacuum Conditions of Space?

NASA's test vacuum chamber in 1965. (Image: Screenshot/YouTube)
NASA's test vacuum chamber in 1965. (Image: Screenshot/YouTube)

Have you ever wondered what would happen to astronauts if they were exposed to the vacuum conditions of space?

It has been conjectured that a person’s bodily fluids would begin to boil, but this is not true.

These fluids would neither boil nor freeze—they would die from asphyxia and stoppage of the heart.

Back in 1965 at NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center, renamed the Johnson Space Center in 1973, Jim LeBlanc, a volunteer test subject, was testing a space suit in a vacuum chamber when things went horribly wrong.

Jim LeBlanc Image: YouTube Screenshot

Volunteer Jim LeBlanc. (Screenshot/YouTube)

Cliff Hess was the test conductor that day.

Cliff Hess Image: YouTube Screenshot

Test conductor Cliff Hess. (Screenshot/YouTube)

With his pressurized suit working, LeBlanc waited for the test to begin, when all of a sudden the tube that was keeping his suit pressurized disconnected. As he began to lose consciousness and fall over, he could feel the saliva on his tongue start to boil… that’s all he can remember.

Within 25 seconds, a co-worker who was in a partially pressurized antechamber, was there to help. Normally, it takes 30 minutes to repressurize the chamber to make it safe, but Hess did it in just over 1 minute.

Watch the video to see the events unfold:

LeBlanc is one of the few people ever exposed to such low pressure who not only lived to tell about it, but suffered no obvious damage. I certainly wouldn’t want to try it.

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