As NASA plans on venturing further and further into outer space, how does NASA plan to dispose of bodies in outer space when they cannot be returned to earth in a timely manner?

Here are your choices: (Answer below- No peeking)

A. Attach them to a booster rocket engine and cremate the body?

B. Freeze them in the airlock and then violently shake the body with a robotic arm until it turns to space dust.

C. Release them into space after an appropriate service?

The most elegant solution would be to just send the body into space through the airlock and let it float away. But a UN charter forbids this, as it technically counts as “littering.” The body could collide with other spacecrafts, or, even more worryingly, could contaminate extraterrestrial bodies with human germs. But it isn’t feasible to keep the body on board for an extended period of time, either, as it could jeopardize the mental and physical health of the other astronauts.

Answer: B. Freeze them in the airlock and then violently shake the body with a robotic arm until it turns to space dust. (Coupon Code Below)

But we need an alternate solution, which is where NASA’s “Body Back” program comes in, one of several research projects funded by NASA to propose solutions to this problem. Since the body would need to be isolated within 24 hours to avoid contamination, it would be immediately placed into a GoreTex bag that would be inflated into a type of sarcophagus. Funeral rites would be performed very quickly, in a location on the ship where the astronauts could contact Earth.

After the funeral, the bag would be placed in the airlock, but instead of releasing it into space, the crew would expose it to space until the cold temperatures froze it solid. Then, in a slightly gruesome ending, a robotic arm would vibrate the body until it disintegrated into a powder. Water evaporates through a vent in the bag, and the vapor goes into space, so in a certain sense, part of the body stays there.

Then, finally, the bag containing the remaining powder folds itself up into a neat square, and the remains are returned to the family. This is a little bit disturbing on its face, and I’m sure we’d all rather just float away, like Dr. Poole in 2001: A SpaceOdyssey. But a space-friendly and cost-effective alternative is nothing to sneeze at, so this may very well be our method of body disposal once we begin living and dying in space.

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Posted in Friday Trivia.


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