Science fiction movies have thrown a great many exposed humans into the vacuum of space, and practically each unfortunate space man experienced a completely different fate from his fellows. In Brian De Palma’s Mission to Mars (2000), the poor astronaut died instantly and bloodlessly, if in a decidedly gray fashion:

Peter Hyams’s Outland (1981) took a more, ahem, dramatic route, treating humans’ bodies a lot like water balloons:

And Paul Verhoeven’s original (and superior) Total Recall (1990) went full-on horrorshow by treating Arnold Schwarzenegger’s face like a squeeze toy .

By contrast, Stanley Kubrick took a rather tame tack in his sci-fi masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), by having, well, nothing happen to his exposed space traveler:

What gives, Stanley? If sci-fi has taught us diehard space nerds anything, it’s that space is a vacuum, and vacuum + human = giblets. Why did the master filmmaker who brought us unflinching horror in The Shining (1980) and A Clockwork Orange (1971) shy away from a little space gore?

Well, with all apologies to the underrated genius of Paul Verhoeven (who, by the way, earned a master’s degree with a double major in math and physics), the clip from 2001 is the most realistic of the bunch.

Oh? You don’t believe me? Well, brace yourself, because we’re about to lay some science on you. Here’s an actual video of an actual dude in an actual vacuum actually losing pressure in his actual space suit… and, you know, talking about it afterward:

How can this possibly be true, when we know for a fact that huge differences in pressure can cause explosive decompression? In a vacuum, the pressure outside the body is entire orders of magnitude lower than the pressure inside the body, so why didn’t this guy go *splat*?

Well, it turns out your skin and blood vessels are pretty stretchy, and that goes a long way toward counteracting the effects of the vacuum. You still don’t want to hang out there too long — it is, after all, wicked cold, and oh yeah, there’s no air — but a few moments’ exposure won’t turn you into a over-microwaved hot dog.

And if you happen to be a tardigrade, or “water bear” (seriously), you might even kind of dig a little space travel:

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