Nasa once wanted to vibrate dead astronauts into dust to dispose of bodies in space

Breanna Robinson
Friday 30 April 2021 21:17
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(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The concept of astronauts going into space to uncover mysteries of the universe has always been fascinating.

As cool as that is, there can be dangers such as radiation that can cause cancer and microgravity, which deteriorates bones and muscles.

But what would actually happen if an astronaut were to die so far away from home?

NASA has been grappling with the question for a while now, as they try to create a method that respects the deceased and swiftly removes the body from the spacecraft.

After all, being around a dead body isn’t an ideal situation for smell or emotional health.

Bodies aren’t allowed just to be “thrown away” in space. To prevent space debris and collisions with other spacecrafts, the UN made it illegal to dump things, which would include bodies, into space.

As a result, NASA had to think outside the box.

While coming up with different ideas on handling something like this, one thing that’s a bit off the wall was pondered — the ‘Body Back.’

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In 2005, NASA commissioned Promessa, a Swedish-based company that focuses on organic burials, to advise on engineering an astro coffin. Developed by biologist Susanne Wiigh-Mäsak, the body is first moved away to prevent air pollution in the spacecraft as it decomposes.

It is then put into a Gore-Tex bag (which is water-resistant) and is exposed to Sub-Zero elements outside of the spacecraft. Once everything is completely frozen, a robotic arm rapidly vibrates the bag, turning it into a fine powder,  similar to ashes after cremation. 

The remains will then be freeze-dried and put into an urn-inspired contraption that is kept outside of the spacecraft.

Although this idea was created more than 15 years ago, with Promessa’s liquidation and NASA  not mentioning anything else about the endeavor, it seems that this project is no more.

Astronomy.com reports that roughly 30 astronauts and cosmonauts have died while either training or attempting hazardous space missions. 

The majority of those deaths either happened on the ground or within the Earth’s atmosphere.

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