By Clayton C. Anderson, NASA astronaut who lived and laughed in space for quite a while!
What would happen if an astronaut murdered all of his companions up in space? He/she would be pretty damned lonely for awhile, that’s for sure!
As ludicrous as your question is, my 167-days living and working in outer space allow me some perspective with which I offer a tiny bit of insight into the scenario. It will never, ever happen. But if it did, I’m guessing there’s a reality show out there waiting to capitalize on the idea. Or maybe a yet-to-be-made movie in Hollywood (you know… the place where we did the moon landings)?
Astronauts and cosmonauts are true professionals; trained and ready to deal with almost anything that is presented to them in space. But a crazed crewmate bent on murder? That’s a good one; and one we never simulated when I was training!
First they’d need some kind of weapon. With no guns on board (the Soyuz used to carry a single shotgun, but I understand that is no longer the case), our spastic spaceman would have to resort to something else, like a large wrench (plenty of those in the EVA tool stowage) or a sharp pair of scissors (you can find them in the Office Pantry). Maybe a crew member’s butter knife (found within his eating utensils pouch) could wreak sufficient damage?
While a blunt object to the heads of unsuspecting space fliers might be the straightforward way to “off” our crew, use of the scissors or dull knife most certainly presents a clean-up issue. Knowing how much tropical fruit punch drink can stain ISS surfaces, I’m guessing that blood would be even worse. Plus, our highly trained maniac would know of the serious bio-hazard potential necessitating use of the ISS Hazardous Materials clean-up kit and proper procedural protocol. Ugh!
Disposal of the bodies is paramount. Rotting flesh, even when contained in well-ventilated aluminum modules, will still smell. Stuffing them into a soon-to-be-departing Russian Progress cargo ship should take care of that issue. After all, isn’t that what they are for… sort of?!
Finally, murdering all of your buddies in space would leave you with no place to go, no one to dine with, no one to talk to. Escape paths and hiding places are extremely limited in outer space. Granted, you could extend your stay on ISS —as your food, water, clothing, and other consumables margins would soar in your favor— but I’m guessing conversations between you — the murderer— and ground control would be “touchy” at best. And you’d probably only have a couple of choices to seal your fate. Hop into a Soyuz and land solo (I don’t think I had enough training for that) —taking your chances with local authorities— or wait until we launch something to you. I’m guessing it will include new (beefy) crewmates and some handcuffs!
Keep lookin’ up!