if an astronaut were to die in space, what would they do with the body?
I'm not sure there is a protocol for that, but it would probably depend on the circumstances. If returning the body is feasible though, I suspect they would try to.
Here's what NASA plans to do if an astronaut dies in space
"It turns out that one of the weird international rules that govern the cosmos prohibits this. Ahttp://www.unoosa.org/pdf/bst/COPUOS_SPACE_DEBRIS_MITIGATION_GUIDELINES.pdf [Broken] says you can't litter in space, and that includes dumping bodies. That's because bodies floating through space could collide with other spacecraft or even float over to alien planets and effectively colonize them with human remains and whatever bacteria and other organisms may be living on and in the body."
Wow, good question.
Good answer to a good question.
For the ISS: There are always enough Soyuz capsules attached as necessary for a full evacuation of the station, and this can happen quickly, probably within 24 hours. I would expect that they want to get the body back to bury it, and within 24 hours you don't have to worry that much about the body decomposing.
Same thing for other missions to low Earth orbit: they can all abort quickly.
For missions further out, it gets more challenging. Fixing the body to the outside of the spacecraft might work - it freezes. Then you just have to figure out how to get it back to Earth without getting shattered pieces everywhere. I would expect that humans dying on other astronomical bodies get buried there if returning them to Earth is too challenging.
In interplanetary space, littering is not an issue, so releasing it there would be an option. Note: this is speculation, we know what Apollo would have done in a few cases, and apart from that no manned mission ever left low Earth orbit.
I imagine they'll stow it until a scheduled return trip. I don't see why they'd use the Soyuz just to return a body.
As for interplanetary or interstellar travel, I imagine it'd be largely cultural and cicumstancial. I imagine the first few people to die on Mars will be buried there, but once a civilization is running, we'll probably have options. I'd want to be cremated and scattered, of course some dogmas forbid that.
How do you stow a decaying body for up to 3 months?
A death in space would be unique - so far all deaths happened in the atmosphere or immediately before re-entering the atmosphere, and the remains returned to Earth automatically.
- Vladimir Komarov was killed in a landing Soyuz when it hit the ground at high speed instead of landing soft.
- 3 cosmonauts were killed in a landing Soyuz when a ventilation hole opened while the capsule was still outside the atmosphere.
- 7 astronauts died in the Challenger explosion
- 7 astronauts died in Columbia explosion
- various people on the ground were killed during various rocket accidents
Someone mentioned freezing it and tethering it outside. I'm pretty sure the idea of a frozen human body shattering like glass is a myth.
Yes I did, but I don't think NASA or Roscosmos would want a dead astronaut hanging around there for months unless there is no other option.
Shattering deeply frozen organic matter is not a myth (see various "banana in liquid nitrogen" videos), but they have to be very cold for that.
I'm well aware of what happens to a banana when flash frozen, but that's fruit. I can obliterate a banana with my fist without it being frozen. Check out what happens to a pigs head when submerged in liquid nitrogen for fifteen minutes. Or a tree trunk frozen to -200C and then shot with buckshot. A whole lot of nothing. This is one time that myth busters may be a decent reference on this site.
I do wonder what would happen if it were frozen for days, does it get more brittle over time? I assume so, more a question of how much.
EDIT: would the danger more be that as the station changes orientation with regards to the sun, the body will expand and contract in cycles?
Satellites from geostationary orbit are not returned.
This is meat.
Finding a place at the ISS that is permanently in shadow is tricky, but "most of the time" should not be too hard: some Earth-facing parts of the station are in the shadow either from the ISS or the Earth most of the time.
Who suggested that?
A small upper stage that delivers satellites to geostationary orbit (GEO) could return to deliver more satellites to GEO if there is a suitable fuel depot in low Earth orbit (LEO) or geostationary transfer orbit (GTO).
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