Guest Post: “The Worst Things That Can Happen to You in Space” by Rob Boffard
Space disasters. The idea of getting caught in the middle of one would be my worst nightmare, but hey, for whatever reason I sure as hell enjoy reading books and watching movies about them! Indeed it was that love that ultimately led me to pick up Rob Boffard’s Tracer, the ebook on sale now at Amazon, B&N, iTunes and GooglePlay. Space, as you know, is scary. And today, I’m pleased to invite Rob to the BiblioSanctum to tell us why. As the author of a sci-fi thriller taking place aboard a broken and crumbling space station, trust me when I say he knows all about the horrible things that can befall you, out there where no one can hear you scream…
WHAT ARE THE WORST THINGS THAT CAN HAPPEN TO YOU IN SPACE?
by Rob Boffard
Well, you could be set on fire.
A fire on a space station isn’t like a fire on Earth. On Earth, when you set something alight, the flames shoot upwards. But in zero gravity, they expand outwards in all directions, feeding on the oxygen-rich environment and getting very out-of-control, very quickly.
NASA and other space organisations realised a long time ago that fire in space is very bad, and so they did everything they could to prevent it, including making most things on board non-flammable. The problem is that fires still happen (there was one on the space station Mir in 1997) and even if you escape without burns, they can make life on board very uncomfortable. Ventilation systems can be shut down, whole modules can be filled with smoke, and particles of soot will bounce around in microgravity until the end of time.
The next horrible thing that could happen to you in space doesn’t sound so bad: catching a cold. But a cold on the ground is nothing like a cold in orbit. Germs love zero gravity. A sneeze can propel them six or seven feet. The entire environment is closed off, with multiple human beings in close proximity, and handy ventilation systems to circulate the air. Sure, the astronauts around you will have medical training, and there’s plenty of medicine on board, but it’s still one of the worst environments to get sick in. Especially if you contract something other than the cold. Can you imagine what happens if a flu microbe sneaks onto the International Space Station? Or a smidgen of flesh-eating bacteria? What are you going to do when your buddy’s arm is dissolving in front of you and the nearest hospital is 248 miles below you? Actually, let’s stop imagining that, because it’s kind of gross.
And then, of course, there’s the big one: being sucked into space without a spacesuit.
The good news is that this is far less likely to happen than getting a cold or catching fire. The bad news is that when it does happen, it will make those things seem like a stroll on the beach.
So you’re minding your own business, cleaning the airlock, and then one of your dumb-ass colleagues hits the wrong button, sending you whirling into oblivion. You might think you’ll instantly explode, but that’s not the case. You go through something far worse. Within seconds, all the air will rush from your lungs, depriving your body of oxygen. You may quite literally shit yourself as your bowels lose control. The saliva in your mouth and the fluids on the surfaces of your eyes will boil off. There’s a very good chance that the liquid in your blood will do the same thing, causing instantaneous bruising and burst capillaries. In fifteen seconds, you’ll be unconscious, and probably very happy about it. In two minutes, you’ll be dead from lack of oxygen.
But the fun doesn’t end when you pass out. See, the thing about space is that it’s the only environment where you can freeze to death while getting a sunburn. Space is -440F, and if you happen to be facing the sun, you’ll get one mother of a full-body tan. How does a temperature of 250F grab you? And this is without talking about the enormous amounts of cosmic radiation you’re being bombarded with.
This might make real-life space exploration seem like a truly terrible idea, but if you’re a writer (as I happen to be) then it’s a wonderful playground of delights. I got to have fun with it all in my Outer Earth trilogy (TRACER, ZERO-G, IMPACT), which is set on a city-sized space station. Huge fires? Check. Rampant, hideous disease? You got it. Explosive decompression? Naturally. What, you’re surprised that I’m sadistic after reading this post? Get outta here, man.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rob. Thirty. Author. Journalist. Sound Engineer. Snowboarder. Hip-hop artist. Tall. Basketball-player-length arms. Lots of tattoos. Glasses. Bad hair. Proud South African. Born in Johannesburg. Splits time between London and Vancouver. Digs New York. Doesn’t dig Vegas. Loves New Orleans. Not a helicopter pilot.
Debut novel. Tracer. On Orbit Books. Out July 2015 (UK). Out sometime 2016 (US). Space stations. Parkour. Explosions. Good times. Two sequels. Huzzah!