Here’s something to think about. 18 people have died in space so far, including 14 NASA astronauts. But there has yet to be a case where one member of a crew has died, leaving the rest behind to cope with the body. And that scenario doesn’t seem to be a part of the regular NASA training protocol. It’s more of a “We’ll figure it out when it happens” plan.
But seriously, what to do? What to do? According to this article, entitled, “What Happens to Your Body When You Die in Space?” there is no easy solution. Burial in space is a problem because the body will get sucked along your flight path, making for a creepy sight seeing tour for the next ship that comes your way. (If you’ve enjoyed the show The Orville as much as I have, you’ll know that they have several dead bodies orbiting their ship. Ugh.)
Storing the body on board for a trip back home leads to smell and biohazard and takes up much needed space and weight allocation. Burying the body on the moon or mars could lead to bacteria being introduced to those planets, with unknown consequences.
There is a company that’s looking into freeze drying a body in space, and then rattling it until it’s reduced to about 50 pounds of frozen ice particles. That would be like cremation without fire. And the article also talks about cannibalism, which, let’s face it, is a gruesome last resort.
I think this can of worms needs to be opened, and soon, before someone dies in space individually. It’s bound to happen sooner or later. Personally, I’d kind of like to know what could potentially happen to me before signing up for a trip on an interstellar cruise ship.
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