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Old 11-05-2019, 10:13 PM
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What would happen to a body left on the moon?


Hello Everyone,
Just wondering if an astronaut dies on the moon and his body was left there, what would happen to it? Would it decompose or mummify? Would it make a difference if it was in a space suit or not?

I was reading a book about The Lady Be Good and how the bodies were found decades later in the desert. It was commented that they were still recognizable as the desert climate preserved the bodies. Would space do the same with no air or, for lack of a better term, worms to decompose the body?



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Old 11-05-2019, 10:37 PM
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Interesting question. I have no idea. The human body has trillions of bacteria on and in it, and once you die they will start eating you up.

However I have no idea how many are anaerobic. I believe the ones that cause your intestines to bloat after death are anaerobic though.
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Old 11-05-2019, 10:41 PM
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This article https://www.scienceabc.com/nature/un...decompose.htmldetails the possibilities that I imagined. In a nutshell. No spacesuit, freeze or mummify. With a spacesuit, freeze or rot. The minimal atmosphere of the moon would probably have little to no effect.
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Old 11-05-2019, 11:08 PM
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At "noon" on the moon (in the month of June) the temperature reaches 260(little circle)F. At "midnight" it reaches negative 280(little circle)F. So it will alternate between freezing and cooking every month.

Last edited by Darren Garrison; 11-05-2019 at 11:09 PM.
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Old 11-05-2019, 11:17 PM
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In vacuum, the moisture would start to evaporate immediately. If the body is in the Sun, it should become completely desiccated. If the body is always in a shadow (e.g. in a crevasse), I think it would freeze solid, because the evaporating water carries away heat.

If in a sealed specesuit, in the open, it'll freeze at night, then thaw and rot during the day.
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Old 11-05-2019, 11:32 PM
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Wouldn't the majority or all of the bacteria be killed during the freeze? I'm thinking more liquify due to cellular breakdown due to freeze and thaw cycle?
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Old 11-06-2019, 07:28 AM
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I think that technically, what would happen to a body in a suit would be called "putrification", not "rotting".

Outside of a suit, it'd be like the mummy in the desert, except even more so.
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Old 11-06-2019, 09:54 AM
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Originally Posted by Darren Garrison View Post
At "noon" on the moon (in the month of June) the temperature reaches 260(little circle)F. At "midnight" it reaches negative 280(little circle)F. So it will alternate between freezing and cooking every month.
Wouldn't it depend on exactly when you croaked on the Moon? I mean if you died there at "noon", you'd basically heat up fairly fast, and then be cooked. So the only real decomposition you'd suffer would be for as long as it took you to go from 98.6 to something like 160, which would be dependent on where you were, how much sunlight you got, etc...

But once you were past 160, you'd effectively be pasteurized very well. So you'd be cooked and in a sense, canned.

Then as it became lunar "dusk", the temps would eventually fall into a range where bacteria could again thrive, but the vast, vast majority would have been killed by the high temps, so they'd only reproduce so much before the temperature would get cold enough to keep them from reproducing. Then you'd be frozen for a month.

Lather rinse repeat. As I see it, your initial warm-up/cool-down period would be the time of most decomposition, as you're at ideal temp when you die, and the bacteria would be present in their highest concentrations.

So it would ultimately come down to how long it would take you to heat up/cool down past the temperatures where decomposition take place.
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Old 11-06-2019, 10:36 AM
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There's bound to be some bacteria in a body that could survive the hot time and the frozen time. They'd do their thing in between as long as there's moisture (and therefore not directly exposed to the vacuum). But they'd be a small percentage at first and could only do a little bit on mild days. It would take a while. They'd probably run out of moisture long before they run out of food. A sealed spacesuit would prevent the drying out and they'd just keep going until the biologically available energy is used up. No, if some photosynthesizing stuff happened to be around the face mask, then some new energy can be input into the system and you have yourself a limited ecosystem that could go a long time. But eventually the suit skin or it's seals will start leaking and then fade out.

Last edited by ftg; 11-06-2019 at 10:39 AM.
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Old 11-06-2019, 11:38 AM
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So it will alternate between freezing and cooking every month.
I've had periods like that
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Old 11-06-2019, 12:47 PM
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I think that technically, what would happen to a body in a suit would be called "putrification", not "rotting".
Nitpick: putrefaction.
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Old 11-06-2019, 12:54 PM
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Wouldn't the majority or all of the bacteria be killed during the freeze? I'm thinking more liquify due to cellular breakdown due to freeze and thaw cycle?
Apparently not, this article talks about how e-coli is often stored in freezers at -80C. The lunar surface at night can get even colder than that, but not much (around -100C).
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Old 11-06-2019, 01:49 PM
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In vacuum, the moisture would start to evaporate immediately. If the body is in the Sun, it should become completely desiccated. If the body is always in a shadow (e.g. in a crevasse), I think it would freeze solid, because the evaporating water carries away heat.

If in a sealed specesuit, in the open, it'll freeze at night, then thaw and rot during the day.
I have heard someone describe what happens to a human body exposed to the vacuum and cold temperatures of space is similar to the process of freeze-drying is that accurate? Is that what you describing?
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Old 11-06-2019, 06:16 PM
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At "noon" on the moon (in the month of June) the temperature reaches 260(little circle)F...
In Windows, Alt-0186 is , Alt-0176 is -- one of those should work for you.
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Old 11-06-2019, 07:19 PM
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In Windows, Alt-0186 is , Alt-0176 is -- one of those should work for you.
That's only two. Where's the third degree?
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Old 11-06-2019, 08:09 PM
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In Windows, Alt-0186 is , Alt-0176 is -- one of those should work for you.
Or you can use the superscript coding [ sup] [/ sup] <--remove spaces. Then insert a lowercase "o." Like this: 100o F
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Old 11-06-2019, 08:18 PM
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Or on a Mac, is alt-0.

And thanks, RNATB, I was pretty sure that I had the spelling wrong.
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Old 11-06-2019, 08:55 PM
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The default would be a moon zombie, but if the person had the wight stuff ....
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Old 11-06-2019, 09:12 PM
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In Windows, Alt-0186 is , Alt-0176 is -- one of those should work for you.
I haven't had a keyboard with a number pad in this century. Where do people still find them?
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Old 11-06-2019, 10:32 PM
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The default would be a moon zombie, but if the person had the wight stuff ....
Obtained at the Isle of Wight, of course. But mustn't a lunar zombie be pre-bitten in order to go zomb-ish? Let's assume Luna is infested with long-fanged alien zombie pillbugs. Hapless humans land, raise wired flags, hop around, and are attacked by zombugs who bite right through the ten-zillion-dollar pressure suits. What then?
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Old 11-06-2019, 10:46 PM
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I've had periods like that
From what I've been told, that's nothing compared to menopause!

Honestly, between periods, childbirth and menopause, I give two huge thumbs up ALL women, THE stronger sex in my mind!
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Old 11-07-2019, 12:56 AM
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In Windows, Alt-0186 is , Alt-0176 is -- one of those should work for you.
(wide tangent....)

Of course, what you actually see is "in your browser", rather than "in Windows". "In Windows" (depending where in Windows you are) you may actually get something different (like the box drawing character).

The common browser encodings are ISO-8859-1, MacRoman, and UTF-8.
You are then, in theory, at the mercy of whatever font is used, but since there is an agreed meaning for the first 256 characters in UTF-8/ISO-8859/Latin-1, any standard 256-bit font will display something that matches the agreed meaning (degree and Masculine Ordinal Indicator)

The modern internet default encoding is UTF-8.
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Old 11-07-2019, 04:24 PM
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Testing: 100 in the shade.

What I do for a lot of special symbols is type it's name into Google* and copy-paste what comes up. The first hit I got was for something called degreesymbol.net which conveniently has the symbol in the title.

* Google has done Something Bad with it's search results for my browser. Let's see, set User Agent to another browser ... okay, got pulldown menus. Partially fixed.
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Old 11-07-2019, 04:45 PM
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The thing with spacesuits is that with all the seals and bearings they have to allow egress and free rotation, they are not really all that air-tight. Also, the life-support systems are only designed to last about 8 or so hours. Between the two, I'd expect the suit to leak down to the ambient vacuum and the power to run out within a couple of days at the most, at which point the body wouldn't have much more protection than if it were left outside (the suit would still reflect some solar radiation, though) and probably still desiccate like a desert mummy.
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Old 11-07-2019, 04:55 PM
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Missed the edit window, but here's a link that mentions the suits on the ISS are allowed to leak up to 100ml per minute.
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