To understand space is to try and make sense of the unknown – and what we already understand about the black, mysterious reaches of outer space is faintly terrifying! Did you know, for example, that for every single grain of sand on the planet, there are close to 10,000 stars in the universe and it’s also estimated that each galaxy contains 100 billion stars? Okay, try this on for size – Hubble Telescope images taken of the night sky have helped scientists deduce that the known universe may contain more than 100 billion galaxies!
These are just some of the beautiful and mesmerizing facts about space – now on to the ones that may make you want to sleep with the light on and break out in a cold sweat the next time you watch a sci-fi flick (Gravity, anyone?). In case you hadn’t noticed, space is dark – in every sense of the word. For starters, the very element we need to survive scrams the minute we leave the Earth’s atmosphere, and a single tear in our spacesuit could mean instant blood-boiling, lung-exploding death.
For the men and women of history that have braved the final frontier and lived to tell the tale, their experiences of life in space – from doing spacewalks to going to the bathroom – have been unlike anything we Earth-dwellers could possibly imagine. From some horrific truths about living in space to some generally freaky facts about our weird and unfathomable universe, we’ve rounded up 15 truly creepy facts about the world beyond our world.
15. The Near-Fatal First Spacewalk (The Voskhod 2 Mission)
An astronaut’s first spacewalk is always going to be a daunting and potentially dangerous affair, but for Alexie Leonov, he had the added pressure of being the first ever human to leave the spacecraft and perform a spacewalk in March 1965 – and to say things didn’t go according to plan for him would be a gross understatement.
During his spacewalk, Leonov’s suit inflated to a degree that made it a struggle to get back inside the craft. He lowered the pressure in his suit and suffered decompression sickness in order to get back inside. Later on, Leonov and his other crew members narrowly escaped death when a huge fireball soared through the craft. To top it all off, Voskhod 2 went disastrously off course upon re-entry, landing Leonov and crew in a remote part of Siberia that was dense with bears and hungry wolves.
14. The Toilet Traumas Of The Apollo Missions
Some of us find it a little awkward going to the bathroom in public places, but imagine needing to relieve yourself a few hundred miles above the Earth’s atmosphere? It certainly wouldn’t feel natural and the Apollo crew can vouch for the not-so-pretty process of doing your business in orbit.
Famously, the crew of Apollo 10 had to deal with “turds floating through the air.” Elsewhere, the process of mixing germicide into the contents of your number 2 proved so pongy during the Apollo 7 mission, that one astronaut was actually awoken from a deep sleep! Considering that the call of nature in space involves suction valves, floating turds and adhesive-brimmed hats in which to do your business and knead herbicide into…we suddenly have new-found love and respect for gravity!
13. Floating Space Corpses
In the early days of space travel, many animals – including cats, several dogs and famously, a chimpanzee – were sent up into the great unknown in the name of scientific discovery. Inevitably, not every animal made it home safely and this has led to a very creepy – but entirely plausible theory – as to the whereabouts of their remains.
Not every spacecraft has been recovered from failed space missions of the past, including many of the human crew members to have died upon launching into orbit. This could very well mean that space is littered with floating corpses. Imagine these casting a shadow across the moon?
12. A Giant Black Hole Is Roaming Through Space (At 3 Million Miles Per Hour)
Apparently, a supermassive black hole a million times heavier than the Sun is hurtling through space at a rate of 3 million miles an hour. No biggy, then? The black hole is reportedly named B31715+425 (Percy the black hole might’ve sounded a bit less apocalyptic, I suppose) and is currently 2 billion light years away from us.
Researchers believe that, based on the unruly nature of this black hole, it may have bumped into another galaxy and, instead of merging its surrounding galaxy with the one it collided with, ripped apart to pursue its own path. These are known as naked or rogue black holes and there could be more out there, looking to start a galactic turf war!
11. The Awkward Issue Of Space Sex
Thanks to the likes of Captain Kirk and Futurama‘s sleazy space captain (and proud lothario), Zapp Brannigan – we’re made to believe that outer space relations can be a steamy, sexy affair. However, as experts will confirm, this is definitely not the case.
In a bid to understand how zero gravity nooky may be possible, the actress and space enthusiast, Vanna Bonta, apparently developed the idea of a special spacesuit for two – almost like a giant sleeping bag that keeps a couple stable enough to, ya know.
Whether or not this suit ever became a success with astronaut couples, there are a few factors about space sex that might kill the mood. For one thing, lower blood pressure in space means reduced blood flow, so…yeah. Plus, you sweat a lot more in zero G, so sex in a two-person suit would be insanely hot (and not in a good way). Thirdly, once in the suit, you would need to be strapped down securely onto a stable surface. Try to score with all this lot going on, Kirk!
10. Solar Super Storms Could Leave Us In Total Darkness
The weather predictions for the future? Likely to be very sunny, with a chance of worldwide blackouts. Solar storms caused by the Sun’s random solar flares can happen at any time, and if they do, the damage could plunge us all into darkness.
Back in July 2012, the most powerful solar monstrosity in more than 150 years narrowly missed us. A scientific study published later that year described how the coronal mass injection (CME) tore through our orbit. If the eruption had happened just a week earlier, Earth would have literally been in the firing line – sending particles hurtling towards us that would cut off our electricity!
9. The Horrors Of Decompression
In June 1971, the entire three man crew of the Soyuz 11 tragically died from decompression during re-entry due to a faulty valve. But what is decompression exactly, and what makes it such a nightmarish way for an astronaut to die? One man who suffered from decompression lived to tell the tale.
He was a technician working inside a vacuum chamber at the Johnson space centre in Houston, when he accidentally depressurized his spacesuit and within seconds lost consciousness. The man later reported that his last memory before passing out was the moisture beginning to boil on his tongue. Nasty!
Symptoms of decompression can vary widely depending on your length of exposure to extremely low pressure. If left for too long, your lungs can expand (and explode if you hold your breath) and your blood can start to boil in major veins and cause blockages. But if you’re really lucky, the lack of oxygen will cause you to pass out and you’ll die before you know what’s hit you. Wow.
8. Meteors Can Strike Without Warning
We forget that we could go the way of the dinosaurs at any time if a big enough meteor were to head this way. Luckily, science has the technology to give the world a bit of notice when it comes to detecting the trajectory of planet-wiping comets and meteors in our atmosphere. Oh, thank you sweet science!
But this hasn’t stopped smaller meteors from inflicting incredible damage over the years. As recently as 2013, Russian citizens were shaken when a meteor broke into pieces over the Ural Mountains and showered mini meteors on the ground below – injuring hundreds of people. Any bigger and these injured statistics could well have been a death toll.
7. It’s Possible To Drown Inside Your Spacesuit
Water is normally contained in spacesuits for cooling purposes as well as keeping thirsty astronauts refreshed on a spacewalk. But wardrobe malfunctions can happen, and when they do, there’s every chance that someone could drown inside their spacesuit.
This was a disturbing reality for Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano who was carrying out engineer work when he suddenly felt a pool of water starting to swell at the back of his neck. Luckily, his colleagues helped to guide him back to the safety of the airlock, in which time the water had begun to cover his nose. At one point, Parmitano even considered the desperate measure of releasing the safety valve near his ear – this will have killed him after a while.
6. To Live In Space For A Year, You’ll Need To Drink Recycled Sweat And Urine
Water is a precious commodity on board a spacecraft, and so crew members need to use whatever liquid they have at their disposal (quite literally) to get by. Fresh drinking water is, unfortunately, not a luxury afforded to astronauts doing a long stint in space, and so they need to drink their own recycled waste. 730 litres of it, to be exact! That’s a lot of recycled urine repeatedly going through your system.
To be fair, this is over the course of a year and it’s not as if astronauts will ever be downing the pure stuff in one go for a bet – bit it doesn’t stop it from sounding any less gross! It apparently takes a total of 8 days for the waste to process and become drinkable. Cheers!
5. Some Stars Can Literally Suck The Life Out Of Others
You may think differently about wishing on one of these stars. A group of stars that astronomers have aptly named “vampire stars” go about sucking the life blood of their neighbours in order to go on burning for longer.
A smaller star with a lower mass will target a nearby star and become revived by sucking the hydrogen fuel of another to increase its mass. Sneaky. The vampire star will then becomes hotter and a more striking color blue – giving it the appearance of a much younger star. Looks like Hollywood isn’t the only place in the universe where stars go to extremes to look more youthful.
4. Bits Of Your Feet Can Fall Off While You’re In Orbit
Turns out that space travel can serve as a good exfoliator for your skin. After spending about a month in orbit, the dead skin on the soles of an astronaut’s feet can start shedding – leaving them with smoother, baby-soft skin.
As one astronaut, Don Pettit described it: “your feet start to molt, like some reptilian creature. The callused skin on the bottom of your foot sheds, leaving soft pink flesh in its place.” Living in space for too long can actually cause you to start shedding parts of your body, and in real-time? Space travel: not even once.
3. Space Can Screw Up Your Eyesight
Another body part space tends to mess with is your eyeballs. The pressure levels in space cause an increase in the amount of fluid surrounding your brain, and when this occurs, the extra fluid can strain your optic nerve and cause your eyes to swell. Damn, zero gravity – you scary!
The unsettling effects of this “fluid shift” at it is known to NASA scientists can deform an astronaut’s eyeballs so much that someone with perfect eyesight can end up with near-sighted vision. So, if you went up there with 20/20 vision, you might need to pay a visit to the opticians when you return to Earth.
2. Rogue Planets Want To Play Pinball With Earth
If you’ve ever watched the film Melancholia, then you’ll know what this refers to. Most planets do what’s expected of them and stay put in their own little orbit (like the 8 well-behaved worlds in our own solar system). Unfortunately, some may have been pushed out of their orbit and they might feel like taking it out on us.
What’s particularly scary is that there are as many of these rogue planets as there are stars in our galaxy – and their size is said to equal that of Jupiter. Oh yeah, there are about 400 billion stars in our galaxy, by the way. 400 billion pissed Jupiter-sized balls looking to mark their galactic territory. Eeek!
1. Our Galaxy Is Slowly Being Sucked Away
Sounding like something that belongs in a George Lucas script, ‘Dark Flow’ (as scientists describe it) is possibly the mysterious force behind our galaxy’s slow (but very probable) demise. Beyond the known horizon of our universe, where light cannot yet reach us – there appears to be a powerful space vacuum, and it’s sucking matter away one galaxy at a time.
Findings by NASA research scientists in Maryland recently discovered a series of galaxy clusters moving at an incredible speed across the sky. The experts deduced that there is “no reason why the clusters should move at such breakneck speeds, unless they were experiencing a strong pull from something beyond the horizon”. Hope NASA can give us a heads up when our time comes, because some of us have boxsets to finish…