What happens when an astronaut dies in space? This question has been raised by NASA for years, a true policy and logistical condom that requires a practical approach that both respects the dead when removing bodies from spacecraft as soon as possible.
See, dead bodies aren’t something you want to be close to – they smell really bad, they become a hen of bacteria as they decay, and being able to live next to the corpses of their fallen friends would leave a lot of scars. Right now, you’re sitting here thinking: “Why don’t they just expel the body into space?” After all, throughout the history of sci-fi movies, opening the plane and leaving the corpse in the abyss is now the way to go. UN law actually makes it illegal to dump corpses in space because of space debris prevention and collisions with other orbiting spacecraft.
So NASA had to be creative. They formed multiple research groups to create some effective ideas and discovered different places to dispose of bodies in space. According to some people involved, a few ideas were put forward but there was one that stood out – and that’s a pretty amazing idea. The concept of ‘body back’ was proposed by a research team in collaboration with the ecological burial agency Promessa. First, the body should be removed from sight and the air inside the spacecraft should be protected from contamination.
Scientists suggested that it should be kept in a Gore-Tex bag and sealed – essentially a space-edge body bag. This part is not at all innovative, but it allows the fallen crew member to pay homage and respect. It seems a bit strange from here that the body back was developed with the idea of traveling to Mars, so just sending the body back to Earth is out of the table. These cannot be burned – flame and pressurized oxygen environments created in heaven are not the same.
Thus, the team became prone. Prometheus is an ecological burial technique in which a body is frozen-dried and then vibrated, disintegrating the body into dust, which, if they wish, is likely to be returned to the ecosystem in the form of discarded forms. It was invented by Promessa’s founder Susan Wiigh-Mäsak and was proposed by Promessa’s until 2015, when the company was scrapped.
This idea was criticized by critics who said that it was not possible to atomize a body in any way. Still, NASA was interested (according to Promessa) and they came up with a way to make this process happen in space. The idea was to place a body in a bag and expose the carcass package to the cooler temperatures of the place. Once sufficiently frosted it would vibrate in the robotic arm until it was nothing but fine powder.
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