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Would a corpse decay in space? © Getty Images

Would a corpse decay in space?

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It's safe to assume there aren't any space bacteria just floating around but that doesn't mean there isn't our own passengers to help out decay.

Asked by: Nicholas Zammit, Malta


In space we can assume that there would be no external organisms such as insects and fungi to break down the body, but we still carry plenty of bacteria with us. Left unchecked, these would rapidly multiply and cause putrefaction of a corpse on board the shuttle or the ISS. Drifting exposed in the vacuum of space itself, however, this process would rapidly slow to a halt.

The low pressure would initially boil off most of the water and what was left would freeze, halting any biological processes. Depending on the trajectory of the corpse, there might be some warming from the side facing the Sun, but all this would do is accelerate the rate of water loss, leaving only a dried husk.


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luis villazon
Luis VillazonQ&A expert

Luis trained as a zoologist, but now works as a science and technology educator. In his spare time he builds 3D-printed robots, in the hope that he will be spared when the revolution inevitably comes.


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