Okay so everyone hopefully understands that you can’t just simply survive in the openness of outer space. That’s why astronauts are required to wear sophisticated suits to keep them safe.
There are many reasons why outer space is not naturally habitable for humans, the lack of air and extreme temperatures being just the tip of the iceberg.
But with a proper suit built to provide protection and breathable air, one can spend limited amounts of time in outer space.
According to Space.com four of the most hostile elements in space are:
1. The Empty Vacuum – The vacuum force, caused by a lack of air in space, can be large and significant. If instruments are unsealed they can break apart. If an astronaut has a suit leak or damage it will be exposed and compromised.
2. Extreme Temperature/Temperature Variation – According to Space.com,
“If an astronaut’s back is facing the sun and the front is not, the temperature difference can be as much as 275°F”
That is an extreme temperature difference for just the direction that you are facing. Astronaut suits must have heavily shielded face plates to protect astronauts from the sun, as well as the capability to handle both temperature exteremes (hot and cold).
Universetoday.com did a great piece called “How Cold is Space” that helped answer a few questions on how extreme the temperatures get in outer space. According to them, the International Space Station…
“…under constant sunlight can get as hot as 260 degrees Celsius (500 F). This is dangerous to astronauts who have to work outside the station. If they need to handle bare metal, they wrap it in special coatings or blankets to protect themselves. And yet, in the shade, an object will cool down to below -100 degrees Celsius (-148 F).”
3. Meteorite Impacts – Although colliding with other objects in space is rare, it is entirely possible and a legit threat. If you are within the orbit of a planet, where much of this debris gets captured, the threat is even higher.
The amount of satellites in space is growing by the day, steadily increasing the amount of “space junk” within Earth’s orbit. Aside from that, small meteorites zoom past the outskirts of space and into our ozone everyday.
4. Radiation Damage – This is one of the most significant threats in space, especially to equipment. There are several sources and forms of radiation in space which can all be harmful to human health in a large enough dose.
The main issue, however, is that this radiation can damage the finely-tuned instrumentation used by astronauts to do experiments in space. The radiation can alter and destroy data, and eventually renders almost all instruments in space useless.