What happens to the human body when exposed to space?

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Space can be a scary place.

Starlord freezing in open space
If you enjoyed Gaurdians of the Galaxy as much as I did, you'll no doubt remember the iconic scene where, in an effort to save the dying Gamora, Starlord jumps out of his spaceship into the vacuum of space. As he drifts out, passing her his helmet so she can breathe, his body starts to freeze before our eyes and his eyes begin to milk over and bleed. Luckily for Starlord he is rescued by his ravager family and apparently emerged from the whole ordeal unscathed because, hey, this is a comic book movie.

If classic sci fi is more your fare, then who could forget the horrifying scenes from Total Recal where characters unfortunate enough to fall out onto Mars' surface start to writhe and gasp with the signature bug-eyes as their bodies struggle and pop under the severe lack of atmosphere.
All in all, Arnie's had better days.

Gruesome stuff.

But how far are these scenes artistic license and how far are they based in reality and supported by science?

Certainly, being in open space is bad for your health.

As DNA Tube explains, overall it would not be quite as dramatic as the movies show. For example, you wouldn't freeze quickly as Starlord and Gamora do as there is not real convection happening in space. Convection happens when atoms effectively bump into one another and transfer energy, so when you're in a total vacuum (or as close as you can get, given the vast distances between matter) there simply isn't enough material floating about to transfer that energy quickly. However you do have a lot of other issues to deal with...

Perhaps the most dramatic effect would be the blood and salivia boiling. There is a little uncertainty about how far this would affect your internal system, but for anything that is exposed directly to the vaccuum, you're in some serious trouble. In Dara Obrien's science club they assume that the inner body's blood store would be affected also,and dramatically show just how explosive the reaction could be...

The moral of the story? Don't leave your space-suit at home, kids.

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