Four Terrors of Living in the Void

September 21, 2021    

Flames, Toxins, Looses, & Vacuum

There are four terrors of living in the void that every newcomer from Earth has to learn, and fast:

The first terror is Flames. Truly terrifying stuff. Everyone agrees. That having been said, I’ve never even seen a flame that wasn’t on video or coming out the business end of a rocket engine. No matches or candles allowed here, so it’s rare. Still our number one fear, though. Could happen anytime. All the sides of the combustion triangle are covered: oxygen is required for breathing, not every material can be flame-retardant, and the amount of electrical current running through this place is staggering. First line of defense is sealing the flames up so they can’t spread; so if you see some, move away or you’ll get sealed up with it. Additional safety tip: never say that other f-word, unless something is actively burning. I’ve read that on Earth, you aren’t allowed to yell that word in a crowded theater. In space, you aren’t allowed to use that word at all unless it’s a real emergency. Utter that word here, and people will come running, every one ready to battle a conflagration; and if there are no flames for them to fight when they arrive, they’ll take their adrenaline out on you.

Terror two is Toxins. Doesn’t seem obvious to the newbies, but the thought has chilled each of us to our bones at some point. Every ecosystem outside the Earth is small and enclosed. All our air and water are recycled from somewhere, and we rely on complicated processes to remove all the bad stuff before it can gets to us. On Earth, a bad chemical spill can evacuate an entire city. No such option here. Anything truly toxic gets loose, and we’ll all be dead in seconds. Try not to stress about it, though, because there’s nothing you can do.

Third of the terrors is what we call Looses. According to the grammar programs, that’s supposed to be short for loose things, but if you wait to hear “things” before you duck and cover, you’ve already been brained by the thing. In space, everything needs to stay nailed down. Always. You are used to having gravity. All your life, objects pretty much sat on some surface and stayed put. Not so much here. When we stop rotation, have a collision, or the engines start burning, anything that isn’t locked down, including you, can become a hazard. The coffee in the unsealed cup you casually rested on a table is one station-keeping maneuver away from floating into the air circulation system and shorting something out. So keep your gear stowed and your magnetic boots on. Because while it’s very disconcerting to have a tablet suddenly accelerating toward your head at 10 meters per second per second, that’s not nearly as terrifying as losing your grip during a space walk and drifting off into billions upon billions of klicks of nothingness, population: you.

Which brings us to our last hazard: Vacuum. We never forget about it; it literally surrounds us at all times, just beyond the hull. But it’s the least frightening. Contrary to what you see on the videos, a leak doesn’t suck everyone out into space and freeze them all solid in less than a minute. We take vacuum seriously, but it kills much slower that the other three. If there’s a pressure drop, the alarm will sound and all the breathing equipment in the compartment will start flashing. Go to one, put it on, and then either grab a sealant gun and get to work, or stay out of everyone else’s way; leave the “holding on for dear life” routine for your next space walk.

Images by goat-privacy and Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay