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Disaster in Space

Date: 10-02-04
Host: Art Bell
Guests: Tess Gerritsen

Best selling novelist, Dr. Tess Gerritsen, discussed the perils of space exploration and her book, Gravity, about a biological disaster aboard the International Space Station. Gerritsen was initially inspired to write the novel after reading about the Progress/Mir docking accident in 1997. She imagined what it would be like if someone she loved was trapped in space and there was nothing she could do to help.

Having researched aerospace medicine and the effects of "zero-gravity" exposure, Gerritsen described in gruesome detail what astronauts would experience if a breach in their spacecraft exposed them to the vacuum of space. She said the beginning stages would be very similar to decompression sickness ("the bends"). As the pressure continued falling, the lungs would explode and the blood would boil. Once total vacuum is reached the blood (and the rest of the astronaut) would instantly freeze solid.

Gerritsen shared other interesting tidbits gained from her research. She said obituaries are prepared for astronauts before they are launched into space. According the Gerritsen, there is a bunker at Cape Canaveral where soldiers stand ready to destroy the Space Shuttle in case of grave malfunction during launch over a populated area. Gerritsen also claims that NASA officials told her 1 out of 50 shuttle missions is expected to end in disaster.

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