In 1967, a technician testing an Apollo space suit in a vacuum chamber at Johnson Space Center experienced rapid decompression when his suit sprung a leak. When the last of the air left the suit, he passed out. The last thing he reported feeling before passing out was the saliva on his tongue bubbling as it boiled off.
Living in space is very different from living on Earth. For starters, you have to bring all of your air along with you… We will be using a vacuum chamber to simulate the vacuum of space and its effects on our bodies.
Bell Jar/Vacuum Pump Operating Instructions
- Plug in pump.
- Attach rubber tubing from pump to the nozzle on base of bell jar. Make sure the valve is OPEN.
- Place experiment or item on the bell jar base. Place bell jar on top of base, making sure it is centered to ensure a good seal.
- Turn on pump until desired effect is achieved (ie.Water boils, balloon inflates, marshmallow man grows to ghost-busting size)
- Turn off pump.
- Close valve on base.When finished with experiment, detach tubing from nozzle, and open valve to return pressure to normal.
We will be preforming 3 experiments!
Step 1: Why Is Our Atmosphere Important to Us?
- Cup of water
- Bell jar
- Vacuum pump
- Place a cup of room temperature water in the vacuum chamber.
- Cover with jar and reduce pressure until water boils.
- Uncover and stick your hand in the previously boiling water, note the water should still be room temperature when you put it in ( do not stick your hand in recently boiled water in any other case )
Matter exists as either a solid, liquid, or gas (sometimes plasma). Air pressure from the atmosphere keeps water molecules on Earth’s surface compressed in a liquid state. If there’s not enough atmospheric pressure pressing the water into a liquid state, then there’s also nothing holding the water molecules together. In the vacuum of space the molecules are able to spread out, and begin to boil.
Step 2: What Would Happen to Our Bodies in Space With Out Space Suits?
- Bell Jar
- Vacuum Pump
- 2 Balloons
- Place an inflated balloon and a non inflated balloon in the bell jar. The non-inflated balloon will represent us exhaling and the inflated balloon will represent us inhaling.
- Cover with jar and reduce pressure. Both balloons should expand, with the inflated balloon getting much larger and possibly popping.
If you ever find yourself about to get sucked into the vacuum of space you should exhale so your lungs don’t explode. Just as the atmospheric pressure on Earth keeps water molecules compressed in a liquid state, the same atmospheric pressure also keeps the air in our lungs from expanding. Without that constant pressure, our lungs would inflate, popping them like balloons.
Step 3: What Would Our Bodies Look Like After Being Exposed to the Vacuum of Space?
- Bell Jar
- Vacuum pump
- 1 Marshmallow
- Place the marshmallow in the bell jar
- reduce the pressure and watch the marshmallow swell up
- Remove the bell jar and watch the marshmallow wrinkle up
The marshmallow represents humans' soft tissues, like those in our skin and organs, which contain water.
A vacuum will cause the water in exposed parts of our body, such as the eyes and mouth, to evaporate quickly, and eventually all the water within us would evaporate, leaving behind what is essentially a dried-out mummy. You can see this in the last picture.
Even if the pressure returns to normal, your body would not be the same after spending too long in space. This is because your cells themselves contain water which would evaporate, and since space is extremely cold, you would freeze and crystallize.