IF I WENT UP IN A BAL­LOON UN­PRO­TECTED, WHAT WOULD KILL ME FIRST?

BBC Earth (Asia) - - Q&a -

1. HY­POTHER­MIA

Air tem­per­a­ture drops by 5°C for each 1km you rise. By the edge of the strato­sphere (around 15km), it’s be­low -50°C and the wind blows at over 100km/h. Ex­posed skin will suf­fer frost­bite in less than five

min­utes and hy­pother­mia will soon fol­low. The tem­per­a­ture starts ris­ing again af­ter 20km, but not

quickly enough to save you.

2. ASPHYXIATION

Well be­fore you reach that alti­tude, though, you will have blacked out from oxy­gen de­pri­va­tion. Pas­sen­ger air­craft au­to­mat­i­cally re­lease oxy­gen masks if the plane de­pres­surises above 4.5km. If your bal­loon doesn’t have its own air sup­ply, you will be un­con­scious by the time you reach 10km,

and dead a few min­utes af­ter that.

3. DEPRESSURISATION

Even with an oxy­gen mask, you won’t sur­vive past

18km. This is the Arm­strong Limit, and is the alti­tude where wa­ter boils at body tem­per­a­ture. Above this point, the mois­ture in the lin­ing of your

lungs evap­o­rates and they lose their abil­ity to ab­sorb oxy­gen. The only way to pre­vent this is to breathe pres­surised oxy­gen in a sealed flight suit.

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